Best Supplements for Weightlifting

Best Supplements for Weightlifting

What are the best supplements for weightlifting?

The market offers a considerable number of products. Still, this article will consider only evidence-based, essential supplements for weightlifting geared to support the sport of strength gains.

#1 Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

We have included whey protein isolate in our top essential weightlifting supplements because high-quality protein supports every goal of maintaining and building high-functioning muscle tissue.

Convenience is critical when hitting your protein macro intake becomes a daily obstacle. For prominent athletes who require 180 grams or more of protein macros daily, whey protein powder can drastically reduce this burden by providing a passive and drinkable solution.

 

Protein Calculator - How much do you need?

 

When you need a protein alternative that does not require chewing, look no further; whey protein isolate is a fast-pass to reach your protein intake target successfully. Remember, while plant-based foods and meats offer overall nutrition with added fats and carbohydrates, there is value in playing catch up with concentrated sources of high-quality protein.

If your goal is to increase your protein but feels inserting an additional meal in your day is futile, rest assured there are tricks worth trying. A great example is overnight oats with milk & water; instead of plain milk and water, add some whey powder and mix into a uniform solution to pack those oats to the brim with dairy nutrition.

Among the various protein powders today, gram-for-gram, grass-fed whey protein stands alone at the very top of the muscle-building and recovery spectrum of performance nutrition.

Top Whey Benefits

  1. Whey protein isolate (WPI) is a high-quality protein loaded with nitrogen-based macro-nutrients.
  2. Whey protein offers a very high bioavailability that's aligned with absorption.
  3. Whey naturally contains a high BCAA density relative to alternative protein sourced. Leucine is notable for being the most anabolic amino acid (muscle grower) – of all protein sources [1].
  4. Whey protein as a routine will boost your gut health and immune system with the least amount of side effects.

      Learn More -

       

      Whey Protein Macro-Nutrients

       

      #2 Creatine Monohydrate

      This is the undisputed number one non-protein ergogenic supplement on our list.

      Popular since the 1990s, this supplement has been studied in more than 1000 trials.

      What is Creatine Monohydrate?

      Creatine is a non-protein amino acid compound, 95% concentrated in skeletal muscle in the form of phosphate and free creatine.

      Creatine consists of three independent amino acids -

      1. Arginine
      2. Glycine
      3. Methionine

      Creatine phosphate in skeletal muscles ensures the fast resynthesis of ATP as an energy carrier. This helps maintain ATP availability, particularly during high-intensity anaerobic exercises with maximal effort.

      What are the Benefits of Creatine Monohydrate?

      According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition [3] creatine affects performance by -

      • Increasing strength and power
      • Increasing lean muscle mass
      • Increasing muscle endurance and training volume
      • Reducing fatigue during intense exercises
      • Increasing glycogen synthesis
      • Enhancing recovery

      Ancillary benefits currently under investigation include improved cognitive function and brain and bone health.

      What is the best form of Creatine?

      Creatine Monohydrate is the best and only form of creatine that should be taken as a daily dietary supplement. Although there are more and more forms of creatine offered lately, the most studied form of creatine with the longest record of science-driven study and proven benefit is creatine monohydrate.

      How Much Creatine is Recommended?

      To optimize effectiveness, we recommend a 5-gram serving daily with a minimum of 350 milliliters of water to ensure solubility. A rule of thumb in terms of customization by body weight is 0.1 grams of creatine monohydrate per day per kilogram of body mass. The more muscle mass a person carries, the more creatine they will burn through. 

        How Bioavailable is Creatine Monohydrate?

        Our bodies can produce creatine naturally through a two-step process that occurs in the kidneys & Liver [6]. Athletes can also absorb creatine through diet by eating meats such as poultry or fish. Creatine monohydrate is about 99% bioavailable, making this form a no-brainer.

        #3 Caffeine

        Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. When ingested, caffeine is rapidly absorbed by all tissues of the body where it is capable of exerting its impact on both your muscles and psyche.

        How Does Caffeine Work?  

        Caffeine blocks receptors in the body that gauge fatigue while also increasing dopamine levels which contribute to mood-enhancing effects. Caffeine usage downregulating dopamine effects; the more caffeine inserted regularly into the body will counter by decreasing dopamine secretion from otherwise natural stimulation. 

        What Activities off Caffeine Benefit? 

        Although caffeine primarily demonstrates moderate-to-large benefits for endurance-type activity, there is evidence of caffeine serving a reliable need for increased output of power.

        Consider the benefits of caffeine in the following areas of sport -

        • Endurance Sport (> 60 min duration)
        • Brief sustained high-intensity sports (1-60 min duration)
        • Single efforts involving strength or power
        • Team & Intermittent sports
        • Pre-Training energy boost / focus (especially if showing up fatigued)

        Does Caffeine Intake Benefit Weightlifters?

        • Nervous System Alertness
        • Increase levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)
        • Reduced Perception of Fatigue & Effort
        • Pain Reduction
        • Better focus

        What is the recommended dose for Caffeine?

        The benefits of caffeine have been shown with doses of 3-6 mg per kg of body weight, but starting with a minimum adequate quantity of 2 mg / 1 kg of body weight is better. Moreover, a plateau may already occur at ~200 mg of caffeine (or ~3 mg/kg, [3]).

        If you are a 100 kg lifter, a 300 mg caffeinated beverage is a fair dose. Likewise, as a 65 kg athlete, a typical 200 mg coffee may be the solution.

        Doses that 3 mg/kg of body mass are likely to induce caffeine-related side effects such as stimulation anxiety and interference with fine motor control. Sleep patterns are also expected to be impacted; the half-life of caffeine is five hours, so refraining from high doses past lunchtime will help regulate your bedtime approach.

        It is worth considering the individual reaction to caffeine because there appears to be substantial interindividual variability in response to caffeine under exercise conditions.

        Some athletes experience performance improvements, others do not respond to caffeine, and in some, performance even decreases. Also, consider your personal caffeine sensitivity and whether there are any adverse side effects.

        Does Caffeine Help Lose Fat?

        Yes, ingesting caffeine carries with it two distinct fat-burning attributes. 

        1. Caffeine has a natural thermogenic effect.
        2. Caffeine causes a release of fatty acids by triglycerides for energy consumption.

        #4 Beta-Alanine

        The realized value of Beta-alanine ingestion occurs after the peptide is paired with the available histidine within the muscle tissue. Athletes are attracted to Beta-alanine to benefit from the resulting di-peptide creation called "Carnosine."

        Although Carnosine can be absorbed through specific foods directly (beef, chicken, fish), sourcing through whole foods alone will not deliver Carnosine in the adequate quantities known to enhance athletic performance. Ingesting beta-alanine with a balanced meal is an effective gateway to increasing carnosine levels within muscle tissue.

        What Role does Carnosine Play?

        Carnosine reduces muscle acidity during high-intensity exercise, which in turn slows down the development of fatigue. Carnosine is a pH buffer capable of retarding the impacts felt through the lactic acid build-up. When serving as a precursor to benefits related to carnosine production, Beta-alanine is thought to improve athletic performance via effects sustained by high-intensity exercise capacity.

        Beta-alanine shows the most pronounced effects in exercises lasting 1 to 4 min, in which acidosis is likely the primary limiting factor. It also may have modest additive benefits when co-ingested with creatine [4].

        β-alanine Recommended Dosage?

        The total dosage of 6.4 grams per day seems to be a consistent thread across many platforms; platforms that benefit from the sale of beta-alanine. 

        As a dietary approach to supplementing, current studies recommend a chronic-loading phase comprised of 4 to 6-gram doses divided through the day in multiples of 2-gram servings. Chronic loading of beta-alanine has proven to increase carnosine concentrations by 20-30 % [8].

        What are the Beta-alanine "Tingles"?

        To avoid the pins-and-needle feeling associated with Beta-alanine (a sensation known as paresthesia), avoid consuming it. The uncomfortable side effects of transient tingles at the skin's surface (where the sensory neurons terminate) are not precisely understood but have been misconstrued as a visceral indicator of efficacy. 

        #5 Pre-Workout

        What do you get when adding the supplements, as mentioned earlier, together in a single product tub? "Pre-workouts" have been scrutinized over the years, given the addictive nature of the ingredients and the likelihood of stimulant abuse, rightfully so.

        How to take Pre-Workout? 

        This type of supplement, which is typically taken 15-30 minutes before a workout, is designed to help athletes enter a mindset of intensity as they approach a workout.

        Pre-workout product structures have gotten so similar that the variance from product to product depends mostly on taste and price tag. In terms of compositional makeup the top three ingredients tend to include - 

        1. Caffeine - Stimulant
        2. Creatine - Recovery & Energy
        3. Beta-alanine - Precursor to Carnosine Production

        Honorable Mentions

        • Citrulline - Vasodilator & Promotion Blood Flow 
        • Betaine - Potential Ergogenic Aid

        What about Non-Stim Pre-Workouts?

        You mean food? Stimulant free pre-workouts entered the scene not too long ago (last decade). Similar to decaffeinated coffee, they may taste the same, but lack the visceral impact associated with the real deal. 

        What are the Strongest Pre-workouts? 

        High stimulation pre-workout products or "Strong" pre-workouts serve a massive and ever-growing market in the states. Although we are not opposed to the ingredients discussed in this piece, many of the brands over the years that have capitalized on marketing United States CAFO dairy protein (whey protein) as "transparent" or "Grass-fed" have enjoyed honest success in the space of Strong pre-workout products.

        Are Strong Pre-workouts Safe?

        This question depends on the individual and the product. As we often express caution in unverified whey products, as source-of-origin functions as the most direct indicator of quality, pre-workout, in comparison, is less diagnostic. The main ingredients come from the same corporations and countries and differ only in per-serving quantity and branding.

        The recommended quantities will depend more on body weight and tolerance. In general pre-workout brand support, the bigger the brand, the better. Brands with a lot to lose will naturally have better QA/QC and tighter risk tolerances when launching a product predominantly made in labs.

        Once your special pre-workout is developed, you can focus on the components that involve real discipline. For the following article on strength gains, a discussion on progressive overload, micro nutrition, and micronutrients, remember an essential part of any goal - sleep.


        References:
        [1] Jäger, Ralf, et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise - Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 20 June 2017, https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8#citeas.
        [2] Kreider, Richard B et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 14 18. 13 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
        [3] Guest, Nanci, et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Caffeine and ...” Caffeine and Exercise Performance, International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand / Research Gate, Jan. 2021, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348153231_International_society_of_sports_nutrition_position_stand_caffeine_and_exercise_performance.
        [4] Ojeda, Álvaro Huerta, et al. “Effects of Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Physical Performance in Aerobic–Anaerobic Transition Zones: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Nutrients | Special Issue : Dietary Supplements, Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland, 19 Aug. 2020, https://www.mdpi.com/journal/nutrients/special_issues/dietary_supplements.
        [5] Smith-Ryan, Abbie E., et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Beta-Alanine.Taylor & Francis, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 1 Apr. 2022, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y.
        [6] Forbes, Scott. “‘Creatine Myths and Common Questions’ with Dr Scott Forbes Phd."We Do Science" - The Performance Nutrition Podcast, 6 Nov. 2020, https://www.wedoscience.com/creatine-myths-and-common-questions-with-dr-scott-forbes-phd/.
        [7] Patel, Kamal. “The Science Behind Caffeine.Examine, 3 Oct. 2021, https://examine.com/articles/science-behind-caffeine/.
        [8]  Trexler, Eric T et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 12 30. 15 Jul. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y
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