Though dietary supplements are both plentiful and popular, it takes a lot to make me actually recommend one.
There are a wide range of things that can help you get the fitter, healthier, and sexier body that YOU want. Supplements generally yield much less benefit than, say, a consistent diet and proper exercise.
But some supplements can make a lot of things better. I’ll list off my recommendations along with a short explanation of what they are and why I recommend them.
As always, please check with your doctor before taking any supplement product to make sure it doesn’t conflict with any health issue or medication you might have.
The Supplement Industry is Littered with Fraud
My go to brand is called Muscle Feast, based out of Ohio. I like them because they have the guts to sell unflavored protein and consistently test high on third party quality control tests.
You see, the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements. So sadly, a lot of times you aren’t getting what you’re buying. But if you have a third party test the product, there’s no conflict of interest.
One such testing company, Labdoor, consistently rates Muscle Feast protein as a top 5 protein supplement. And they publish their test results online.
I have traditionally used their unflavored stuff, but I just picked up some chocolate Grass Fed Why Isolate and it is delicious. Not too sweet, but doesn’t taste like burnt rubber bands, either.
Protein powder is my most recommended supplement.
Protein is necessary to build muscle and a ton of other important channels and signaling molecules in your body. It’s all over the place.
Everyone needs a lot of protein in your diet to not only build, but also to sustain the muscle you have already earned. Working hard in the gym is not enough. A surplus of protein is easy to have when you’re eating a ton of food to bulk up your body. This surplus of protein is harder to come by when you’re cutting fat off your body, so protein supplements can be good for preserving your muscle mass.
Every vegetarian or vegan should take a protein supplement regularly. There are some vegan proteins out there these days. The Garden of Life Brand is pretty highly rated on Labdoor, but also rated one of the worst by Consumer Reports for levels of contaminants like arsenic and lead.
It is possible to get enough protein for serious gains simply from only your diet. If you are consistently eating about 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass, then you probably don’t need a protein supplement. Having a supplement can help you hit the correct macronutrients.
Protein supplements after a workout fit well in a peri-workout routine. Shoot for 20 grams if you’re a 100lb woman. Shoot for 35 grams if you’re a 300lb man.
Top recommendation — Muscle Feast Grass Fed Whey Isolate
Vegan recommendation — Garden of Life Raw Protein.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a nicety. Amino acids are the pieces that make whole proteins. So taking BCAAs is a lot like taking protein powder.
BCAAs (specifically leucine) spike protein synthesis, helping preserve your precious, hard earned muscle. BCAAs (specifically isoleucine) also seem to reduce fatigue.
BCAAs are best to take when you haven’t eaten in a while, but still want to get a workout in. I usually eat lunch around 1PM and then don’t eat again until after my 5PM workout. BCAAs keep me going through my workout.
BCAAs are unnecessary if you’re eating a ton and eating often. That is, if you’re bulking.
Some like flavored BCAA supplements as a replacement for sweet drinks. There’s a psychological win in weight loss where you need to eventually let your body get used to going without sweet drinks, but this can be a good transition away from diet soda. I would recommend diluting it past their recommendations on the bottle if this is the case.
BCAAs before a workout fit well in a peri-workout routine. Shoot for 4 grams if you’re a 100lb woman. Shoot for 9 grams if you’re a 300lb man.
Top Recommendation — Muscle Feast BCAA 4:1:1
Creatine is one of the most thoroughly research supplements out there. Here’s a review article from the International Science of Sports Medicine.
Creatine supports high levels of activity. It’s good if you’re busting your butt in the gym. Don’t bother with it if you’re just starting out.
Creatine before a workout fits well in a peri-workout routine with your BCAAs. Shoot for 3 grams if you’re a 100lb woman and 10 grams if you’re a 300lb man.
Top Recommendation — Muscle Feast Creapure®
Multivitamins are a blend of a ton of micronutrients, like B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, and metals.
Most people should probably take a multivitamin to cover their micronutrient bases. Even eating a wide variety of vegetables doesn’t meet recommended daily allowances of micronutrients. For an interesting look on this, read “Your Diet Isn’t Good Enough” by Ben House and see Fletcher & Fairchild, 20021.
If you’re totally comfortable with your energy levels, digestion, and gym gains, don’t worry about taking a multi.
Top Recommendation — Designs for Health