5 Supplements Every Lifter Needs
Weight training is a full-time commitment. Day in and day out you are either training hard in the gym, prepping your meals or rolling out and recovering.
If you’re serious about your strength training, callisthenics, CrossFit - whatever your resistance training discipline is - then we’d be willing to bet it nearly engulfs much of your life.
Many of you will wake up and chug an amino acid shake, or take morning creatine to help elevate blood concentration levels - even at work you might drink a protein shake or load up on carbs to provide yourself with the nutrients needed to crush your afternoon workout.
If you’re already on the right path and are focused beyond measure with your weightlifting goals then you might be hitting all the requirements needed to achieve greater strength through your diet - but many of us simply aren’t.
It's not that you can’t grow stronger with a whole-foods approach - but, when it comes to achieving an anabolic state and growing stronger, faster, it comes down to some pretty specific supplements that can boost and trigger the capacity for muscle growth.
The Difficult of Training Without Proper Nutrients
Let's pretend, for a moment that you want to try and hit all your goals without going down the spectrum of specific supplementation.
Assuming you are doing everything you can to hit the most basic needs of the body - 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat (this is quite common) and you are training 4 to 5 times per week with moderate to high intensity exercise - such as Crossfit, strength training, powerlifting etc...
There is no question - your body will need more nutrients than your diet can provide. Here’s why:
Exercise Demands More Carbohydrates
Most people are nervous about carb consumption, but when it comes to strength and recovery carbohydrates are the most important nutrient needed to restore muscle glycogen levels after exercise.
Exercise Lowers Blood Creatine Levels
Creatine is an essential nutrient that can help facilitate the resynthesis of lost phosphates in the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy transfer. Without creatine, your body will struggle to recover at a fast rate.
Your body does produce it naturally, and you can get it from certain foods, however if you’re taking your strength training to the next level, it can be very difficult to know exactly how much you’re getting from food - let alone how much is actually being absorbed by your body.
Amino Acids Deplete
Amino acids are crucially important nutrients for muscle growth - but they are so much more than that. Some work to balance hormones, promote cell growth and structure, while others are important in the immune system.
When you exercise, your body draws on specific amino acids to help heal and stabilize the body. Without a constant stream of these essential amino acids, you will struggle to maintain strength and perform at a high level while avoiding injury.
Increased Risk Of Injury
The last and perhaps most important aspect of complete supplementation is to reduce the rate of injury. At the end of the day, working out is a game of consistency. You aren't always going to make clear and linear strength progressions - but if you can stay healthy you can continue to train longer without needing extended time away from your workouts to heal.
In order to grow stronger, we want to provide the body with what we like to call the 5 Supplement kings.
Ensuring Proper Supplementation With The 5 Supplement Kings
Long have people misunderstood the benefits of creatine in your diet - even when you are not training. Creatine is not a magic substance, rather it is found in every day animal products such as red meats, fish and chicken.
Creatine helps to resynthesize lost phosphates in energy transfer from muscular contractions. In other words, creatine helps you to recover faster after strenuous exercise. Although creatine comes in many forms, the most effective is creatine monohydrate or creatine HCL.
It can also help to promote increased energy as creatine is synthesized into an actual energy compound (Adenosine TriPhosphate).
This is perhaps one of the most underrated supplements in the world of strength training. Alanine, mostly seen as Beta-Alanine, is an amino acid found in everyday food - yet when supplemented in higher doses can have great effects on blood lactate levels which, when too high, can put a major damper on your performance.
Research shows that alanine supplementation can help to buffer the production of lactic acid in the blood - thereby enabling you to train harder, for longer without the accumulation of lactic acid.
It should be noted that alanine is not a stimulant based supplement, rather it assists you in training longer by providing your body with less lactic acid pooling in the muscle.
The most common supplement found in many pre-workout amplifiers, citrulline is an amino acid that helps your body to develop more strength for longer - in other words, it is an endurance based supplement that helps you to delay the onset of fatigue.
Citrulline supplementation improves the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism thereby increasing the potential for endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic prolonged exercise.
The most abundant amino acid in the blood is also one of the most important to your overall success as a strength athlete. Glutamine is an amino acid that is found in everyday foods such red meats, fish, red cabbage, nuts and many more.
Since glutamine is so rich in the blood, it also accounts for approximately 20% of all nitrogen transport in the blood.
Additionally, glutamine supplementation has been shown to help assist in protein synthesis and the limiting of muscle catabolism (breakdown).
Hands down the most overlooked supplement for pure strength and performance. Leucine is an amino acid found in everyday foods, yet when consumed in higher dosages can have a large effect on the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.
Some studies will even show that when Leucine is not present in a BCAA formula, protein synthesis is delayed and muscle recovery is not as effective.
How to Supplement The 5 Kings
Going to the store and grabbing each of these supplements specifically can be quite difficult and time-consuming. If you’re already into whole foods than you are likely shopping every couple of days to eat fresh foods so taking an extra trip to the supplement store is unwanted.
The easiest and most effective way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients needed in your workout regime is to supplement with a complete pre-workout.
Most of these supplements listed above will be found in a complete pre-workout, with the exception of glutamine and leucine, which can also be found in many amino acid formulas.
NOTE: If you’re a keener on dosage than you may want to supplement each specifically.
Combining your workout program with a complete meal plan and a structured and specific supplement guide is completely essential to your success in the gym.
As discussed above, training is a game of consistency - if you can consistently provide your body with the nutrients needed to recover from your rigorous training sessions, you will succeed.