Get our FREE IIFYM Weight Loss Starter Guide
The Essential Guide to Workout Supplements
While getting all of your nutrients and energy from whole food options is ideal, IIFYM.com isn’t naïve to think that people aren’t looking for workout supplements to fill in the gaps. With so many brands and products on the market, it’s difficult to decipher what is legit and what is bogus. For that reason, I’m putting together a list of workout supplements that you should consider—based on science.
We want to point out first, that having a solid nutrition plan and workout program is ideal for seeing the results you desire. If nutrition is your downfall, you don’t need to worry. Simply check out the calculators found on IIFYM.com to find out how many calories you need to either put on muscle or drop body fat.
How do I know I’m getting beneficial workout supplements?
To be honest, unless you do your homework, you won’t know. There is so much hype out there that it’s difficult to see your way through the BS and the scientifically-backed workout supplements. A general rule of thumb should always be if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I remember about a decade ago, brands would market and publish copy that said things like, “1,000% increase in strength the first dose” and “add five pounds of muscle the first week.” It was as if the product was pure witchcraft.
They might as well say each purchase comes with a free unicorn. Thankfully, consumers have become more educated on workout supplements, but there are still some products out there being used that are junk. We will actually touch on that subject next to help prevent you from throwing your money away.
So, which workout supplements does IIFYM.com recommend? We’re going to get to that soon enough. We will take a look at what workout supplements have been proven to help performance, recovery, and any other aspect of giving you that “edge” you’re looking for.
First, what workout supplements are bunk and should be avoided?
One of the worst scams out there is fat burners. Do they work? Marginally at best. Why is that? Most fat burners include diuretics (we’ll touch on this next) which literally pull water from your body so that you see the scale move.
Now, there are some fat burners out there that increase metabolism, but unless you do your part by exercising, engaging in cardio, and cleaning up your diet, you won’t see much of a difference at all.
The major issue with fat burners is that you’re not fixing your underlying issues. If you need a fat burner, it’s generally because you are lacking proper knowledge when it comes to nutrition and you’re eating improperly (or you simply know and don’t care).
Another issue is that people want the “quick fix” without putting in the work. They don’t want to spend time doing cardio or engaging in resistance training and/or follow a sustainable diet with a proper caloric intake such a Custom Macro Blueprint. They want to be able to sit on the couch and get results. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Above I mentioned diuretics. This is another worthless product to steer clear of when it comes to workout supplements. For starters, if you are engaged in high-intensity exercise, using a product that pulls water from the body and potentially puts you in a state of dehydration is simply a terrible idea.
We at IIFYM.com do not recommend that anyone use diuretics unless prescribed for a condition by your doctor.
Why You Should Ditch Diuretics
Some brands position these workout supplements as a way to look “harder,” become more defined, lose weight, look more vascular, and help show your six-pack. But guess what? After you are done using them you put all of that water weight right back on. So, why even put yourself and your health at risk by using it?
Another gimmicky product to be thrown into this workout supplements list would be pre-workouts. Sure, they get you all jacked up to exercise, but many of the ingredients are severely under-dosed or unnecessary.
Creatine is also commonly found in pre-workouts, yet buying it separately ensures the dose is more accurate.
Are there some good quality pre-workouts out there with efficacious doses? Absolutely. But, unfortunately, many brands keep their dosages low to fluff their margins through the use of proprietary blends. Don’t be fooled.
If you’re interested in checking out our article on pre-workout side effects, click here. We have mentioned different products that work and don’t to help you make an informed decision before you open up your wallet. Now for the workout supplements worth consuming.
Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for! Workout supplements you can trust and feel confident using!
By far, the most studied supplement in this entire line-up is creatine. When it comes to workout supplements, creatine reigns supreme. Creatine helps the body produce energy and aids in recovery. If you have an hour (or a year) to read all the studies, you will find that creatine is the cream of the crop with well over 500 studies (1).
Creatine helps the user perform at a higher level, increases strength and power output, as well as improves stamina. The great thing about this as one of our favorite workout supplements is that it won’t break the bank.
Creatine monohydrate is an inexpensive product and one that I’d definitely recommend giving a try if you aren’t already. It is considered safe for use by anyone over the age of 18. 5 grams per day is all you need and there’s no need for a loading phase like what was recommended years ago.
Creatine is also commonly found in pre-workouts, yet buying it separately ensures the dose is more accurate.
PROTEIN! You can definitely get enough protein from whole food sources if you wished, but not many people are willing to eat that much. If it’s something you’d like to strive for, IIFYM.com has some amazing nutrition plans that you can take advantage of and help guide you down the path to success.
If you simply aren’t interested in eating that much food and want a simpler option, a whey protein powder fits the bill. We all know that in order to build muscle, you need protein and that protein is made up of amino acids.
When you resistance train, you are breaking down your muscle fibers. In order for these muscle fibers to recover, get stronger, and grow, you’re going to need protein to aid in the rebuilding process.
With so many protein powder options out there, how do you know what to buy? Well, researchers have found that milk-based protein, as well as egg protein, are a better option due to their superior amino acid profile when compared to something such as a plant-based protein powder (2).
In addition, they also found that a blended protein with whey and casein is also beneficial thanks to the combination of fast and slow digesting proteins being present (3).
Whey protein powder is one of the great workout supplements that the crew here at IIFYM.com would recommend. The flavors are generally amazing, they mix well in a shaker, and they are extremely convenient. As a rule of thumb, try to take in a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass daily.
While many would consider this a daily lifestyle ingredient, it’s still one of the best workout supplements out there. You can find caffeine in a majority of the pre-workouts on the market these days, but in addition, it can be taken alone and yield many benefits. Coffee, which is America’s favorite morning beverage, does contain caffeine but is not recommended for use as an ergogenic aid.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) has taken a stance on caffeine and their findings are amazing, to say the least (4). When caffeine is ingested 60 minutes prior to exercise, it allows for proper absorption and utilization of this ingredient, but some increases in performance can be measured as quickly as 15-30 minutes.
Many workout supplements stem from plants or foods—and citrulline malate is no different. In fact, it’s commonly found in watermelons.
Caffeine has the ability to increase focus and mental awareness as well as improve endurance. The recommended dosage of caffeine for performance benefits can be seen as low as 200mg and can reach over 400mg per serving (5).
It should be noted that you should consult with your doctor before supplementing with caffeine to ensure you are healthy enough to do so and that it will not interact with any conditions you have or medications you may be taking.
Many workout supplements stem from plants or foods—and citrulline malate is no different. In fact, it’s commonly found in watermelons. What’s the function of citrulline malate? Primarily it is used to increase the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) (6).
What’s so important about nitric oxide? Well, when you go to the gym you enjoy the pump you get from weight training, right? There are some benefits to that “pump” other than making your muscles appear larger.
Nitric oxide helps increase blood flow which then aids in delivering the nutrients in the blood to the working muscles (7). In addition, it can help remove the waste and byproducts produced through weight training to help enhance muscle function as well as reducing muscle fatigue.
Some of the other research-backed benefits are relieving muscle soreness and enhancing anaerobic performance (8) as well as allowing you to increase your overall training volume (9). Citrulline malate has been shown to be safe and effective when taken between six and eight grams about an hour before exercise.
Image Source: Examine.com
Last, but not least on our list of workout supplements is beta alanine. The role of this supplement is to increase the amount of carnosine in the body which is responsible for decreasing fatigue and increasing work capacity in the working muscles (10). In doing so, it allows the muscles to work harder, allowing for the potential of muscle growth and elevated levels of performance.
Carnosine is a “buffer” of sorts that reduces the acidity in the muscles (11). to allow them the ability to increase work output prior to fatiguing. Beta-alanine has been deemed safe for use and is recommended at a dosage that’s between two to five grams per day. It should be noted, that beta-alanine has been known to give people a tingly sensation when used.
While completely harmless, it can cause quite the shock from an individual who didn’t know of this common effect. If you have ever taken niacin and know the “niacin-flush” sensation, it’s incredibly similar.
Hopefully, you found value in this IIFYM.com content piece about workout supplements. If you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it with your IIFYM friends and family. In addition, if you are looking to take your health and fitness to the next level, our experienced coaches at IIFYM.com can help you get the results you desire.
With IIFYM.com coaching, you work one-on-one with top experts in the field who cater a 12-week program to your specific needs. If you’re looking for a customized blueprint specifically created for you, this program is your new blueprint.
- Various studies (search engine). https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=creatine+monohydrate+supplementation&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5
- Campbell, Bill, et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 26 Sept. 2007.
- Tipton, K D, et al. “Ingestion of Casein and Whey Proteins Result in Muscle Anabolism after Resistance Exercise.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2004.
- Goldstein, Erica R, et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Caffeine and Performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 27 Jan. 2010.
- Spriet, Lawrence L. “Exercise and Sport Performance with Low Doses of Caffeine.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.), Springer International Publishing, 2014.
- Goubel, F, et al. “Citrulline Malate Limits Increase in Muscle Fatigue Induced by Bacterial Endotoxins.” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1997.
- Barbul, A. “Arginine: Biochemistry, Physiology, and Therapeutic Implications.” JPEN. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Pérez-Guisado, J, and P M Jakeman. “Citrulline Malate Enhances Athletic Anaerobic Performance and Relieves Muscle Soreness.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2010.
- Wax, B, et al. “Effects of Supplemental Citrulline-Malate Ingestion on Blood Lactate, Cardiovascular Dynamics, and Resistance Exercise Performance in Trained Males.” Journal of Dietary Supplements., U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Harris, R C, et al. “The Absorption of Orally Supplied Beta-Alanine and Its Effect on Muscle Carnosine Synthesis in Human Vastus Lateralis.” Amino Acids., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2006.
- Harris, Roger C, et al. “Carnosine and Taurine Contents in Individual Fibers of Human Vastus Lateralis Muscle.” Taylor & Francis, Journal of Sports Sciences, 2010.