Let's say you're looking to lose a little fat and pack on some muscle. You've already got a healthy diet, a steady cardio routine, and some reliable weight-training workouts, so you head down to the nutrition store to pick up some new supplements—only to be stopped in your tracks by aisles and aisles of unpronounceable tubs filled with who knows what. How's a guy supposed to know where to start?
Don't sweat it: Here are six research-backed supplements you should strongly consider on your quest to reach peak levels of health and fitness.
1. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Do you find yourself experiencing post-workout muscle soreness and fatigue, but not seeing the fat-loss results you expect? If so, consider taking BCAAs. People who took BCAAs before and after exercise had a significant reduction in muscle soreness, according to a University of Birmingham study. Furthermore, a Brazilian study discovered BCAA supplementation helped reduce fatigue and burn more fat in glycogen-depleted participants.
Want to build strength and lean muscle mass? Try creatine. When lifters supplement with creatine, their levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 can increase by more than 20%, which produces anabolic effects like increased muscle mass, according to an eight-week Canadian study. Just be sure not to take excessive amounts, as various side effects have been reported. Three grams per day is a safe amount of creatine, according to the European Food Safety Authority.
3. Protein Bars and Powders
Ask any expert and they’ll tell you the importance of consuming protein before and after workouts to stimulate muscle growth. Unfortunately, few guys can schedule meals around workouts—and that’s where protein supplements, like powders and nutrition bars, come in handy. Need to eat and run? Forget the unhealthy, greasy fast food and grab a nutrition bar that’s high in quality protein, and essential fats and carbs. Have a little more time on your hands? Mix yourself a protein shake.
4. Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Think all fat is bad? Think again. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) has omega fatty acids, also known as “good fat.” CLA could help you lose fat and help preserve your muscle tissue, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition. In the study, 71 participants who consumed CLA lost an average of six pounds; CLAs make you more inclined to gain muscle, not fat. Be sure to get omega fatty acids through your diet or supplements.
Is all that training making you feel run-down or even sick? If so, glutamine could help reduce inflammation and the risk of infection, according to research from the University of Trieste in Italy. Glutamine might also help stimulate muscle growth by regulating glycogen within your body, thereby boosting performance and muscle growth, according to research conducted at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
Can you hear your body talk? Presumably not—but if you could, it would probably tell you that working out takes a lot out of you, including the loss of vitamins that you need to sustain your health. Unfortunately, research indicates that many who train hard while desperately trying to maintain a specific body weight are often vitamin-deficient. Multivitamins should help remedy that loss. Start your day off with this supplement and be sure to take only the recommended amount.