Workout Supplements: An A-Z Guide
We all know that nutrition is vital when it comes to your overall physical health. What you put into your body is even more important than what exercises you do with it, and as the saying goes: you can’t out-train a bad diet.
For many of us though, it’s hard to get all of the nutrients we need with our diet alone. Even someone following a traditionally ‘healthy’ diet is unlikely to hit the recommended daily amounts of every vitamin, mineral and macronutrient we need for optimum health. As soon as you factor in different dietary requirements such as vegetarianism, veganism or food allergies, this challenge can be even greater.
In addition to this, there are some minerals and vitamins that are actually hard to find in everyday foods, but can be hugely beneficial to your health and fitness.
This is where supplements come in.
Most of us are familiar with supplements for vitamin C, iron and omega 3. But if you’re interested in supplements to help with your training, you might feel like you don’t know where to begin. There’s a huge range of supplements that can help with workouts, so we’ve put together this A-Z guide of some of the best-known, as well as the more obscure.
What types of exercise are supplements needed for?
While supplements aren’t vital when working out, many people find that adding them into their (healthy!) diets can improve their performance in a number of ways. Supplements are most commonly associated with weight training, as a number of them help with repairing torn muscles and helping to grow muscle mass. However, supplements for cardio training can also be hugely beneficial for helping you keep focus, stay energised and recover more quickly.
If you’re interested in introducing workout supplements to your regime, here’s everything you need to know…
A-Z of Supplements
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
Why they’re important: BCAAs are a type of amino acid that naturally occurs in our muscles. They’re thought to be key for muscle growth, and can also reduce the impact of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, meaning people can get back to their workouts more quickly.
Where they’re normally found: chicken, fish, beef, eggs, lentil, nuts, whole wheat, brown rice, soy proteins.
How to take the supplement: people with restricted diets, such as vegetarians or vegans, can struggle to get as many BCAAs in their diet through food alone. Supplements come mainly as flavoured powders that are mixed with water and can be taken during or after a workout.
Why it’s important: one of the main challenges people face when it comes to workout is a lack of mental energy or focus. This can be particularly true for endurance exercises, such as long runs, or for people who are trying to fit their gym sessions in after busy days.
Where it’s normally found: coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and bars
How to take the supplement: caffeine-only supplements typically come in capsule form, however for exercise, many people get their caffeine via a pre-workout mix. These typically contain a mix of supplements, of which caffeine is usually key.
Why they’re important: carbs are our bodies’ main source of energy, and are especially important for cardio training. It would be almost impossible to complete a sustained cardio workout, such as a long run or cycle, once carbohydrate sources have depleted.
Where they’re normally found: bread, rice, fruit, legumes, sweets, some vegetables
How to take the supplement: athletes usually add carbs to their diets via products such as energy gels or bars that can be taken before and during a workout.
Why it’s important: CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is a relatively new supplement that is associated with a wide range of beneficial effects. These are thought to include reduced inflammation, stress management and improved focus – all of which can be beneficial for both cardio and weight training.
Where it’s normally found: CBD is naturally found in the cannabis plant, but must be grown from industrial hemp and have only trace levels of THC (the psychoactive compound also found in cannabis) to be legal in the UK
How to take the supplement: people take CBD in a number of ways, including capsules, e-liquid and oils. However our CBD-infused sports drinks are the ideal way to take in the supplement when working out, thanks to the great taste and other benefits.
Why it’s important: creatine is naturally found in our bodies and is associated with providing energy to our muscles, decreasing protein breakdown and improving strength.
Where it’s normally found: beef, chicken, eggs, fish
How to take the supplement: creatine is typically taken in capsule or powder form. It commonly appears in pre-workout mixes alongside caffeine.
Why it’s important: glutamine is another amino acid naturally found in our bodies. It’s associated with decreasing muscle breakdown and also helping the immune system
Where it’s normally found: beef, chicken, fish, milk, cheese, beans, carrots
How to take the supplement: glutamine is typically used as a post-workout, and is sometimes even taken as an overnight recovery aid. It can be taken on its own in a capsule or powder formula.
Why it’s important: protein is one of the key macronutrients needed in our diet, and is mostly associated with muscle recovery and multiple growth
Where it’s normally found: lean meats, chicken, eggs, nuts, cheese, milk, beans
How to take the supplement: protein is probably the most popular supplement that people take. Typically, protein powder is used to create a shake, though bars are also popular.
Why it’s important: this naturally-occurring molecule is associated with a few key processes, including dilating blood vessels. This can be important for people who are weight training because it ultimately allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the muscles, helping with energy during the workout and recovery afterwards.
Where it’s normally found: Nitric Oxide can’t be ingested in the same was as other supplements on this list; instead, ‘boosters’ contain amino acids that are converted to Nitric Oxide in the body
How to take the supplement: Nitric Oxide boosters are typically taken in capsule format.
Why it’s important: ZMA is actually a combination of three key minerals: zinc, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. Many people are naturally low in these minerals, but they can have a number of post-recovery benefits including helping with sleep and stabilising hormones.
Where it’s normally found: cereals, milk, meat (zinc), fish, liver, potatoes and fruits (vitamin B6)
How to take the supplement: ZMAs are usually taken before bed due to some associated drowsiness, and come in capsule form.
For more workout tips, take a look at our blog.