When it comes to supplements that enhance your performance or boost muscle growth, many are targeted specifically toward men. However, many of the most recommended and best workout supplements out there are perfect for both sexes.
Here, you can learn about the products that can benefit you the most, whether you’re a man or a woman.
If you’re working out regularly, then chances are good that your ultimate goal involves building muscle. If you’re going to do that efficiently, then you’ll need to make sure that you’re providing your body with protein. The USDA recommends that women get 46 grams and men get 56 grams of protein per day. However, if you’re particularly active and trying to build muscle, you’ll want to try to get at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. View our macro nutrient calculator here for more information.
The best workout supplement in terms of protein is a blend that contains both whey protein and milk protein, or casein. In a study on the effects of these different protein types, casein and whey protein acted very differently on test subjects. Whey protein caused an abrupt but short-lived increase of amino acids in blood plasma, indicating that it works quickly, but is metabolized quickly. Conversely, in patients given casein, the levels of amino acids in their plasma were slower to rise, but stayed higher over a longer period of time. This indicates that casein is slower to absorb, but stays in the bloodstream longer.
Creatine is a blend of three different amino acids that have been shown to help facilitate muscle growth. A research paper out of Baylor University in 2003 noted that there had been more than 300 studies on the effects of creatine at the time, and that some 70% reported gains in performance and musculature that were statistically significant. Of those studies, some of the most important statistics are quite impressive. Short-term creatine supplementation was shown to:
- Improve athletes’ maximum strength and power by 5% to 15%;
- Increase the maximum effort that drives muscle contractions by 5% to 15%;
- Improve sprint performance by 1% to 5%; and
- Improve the efficiency of work performed during repetitive sprints by 5% to 15%.
These same studies showed that creatine significantly improved gains in muscle mass, strength, fat-free mass, and performance, especially as it relates to high-intensity activities. Pure creatine monohydrate, which is very small at the molecular level and easier for your body to digest and use, is one of the best workout supplements you can buy.
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, refer to the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Studies have shown that individuals who have low dietary protein can benefit from BCAAs in several different ways. They promote muscle synthesis, which increases the rate at which muscles grow and muscle size over time. What’s more, novice athletes often use it to prevent fatigue during competitions or particularly strenuous workouts.
There are some fitness experts who argue that BCAAs are vital to muscle growth, even in athletes who consume plenty of dietary protein. Other experts claim that unless an athlete is consuming supplemental protein daily, he or she is not getting all of the BCAAs that could enhance muscle growth.
Whether or not BCAAs should be on your list of the best workout supplements depends on what they actually contain. Many supplements do not contain all three of the amino acids, which means you’re only getting some of the building blocks you need to create muscle protein. If you are using a high quality whey or casein protein powder, then you are already getting all three of the BCAAs you need, and further supplementation is not necessary.
Fish oil is one of the world’s best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are some of the best workout supplements for many reasons. They enhance muscle growth, improve strength, reduce muscle damage, and even prevent workout-related fatigue and soreness. Your body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, so it is vital that you get them from food or supplementation. Unfortunately, the Western diet makes it difficult for most people to get all of the omega-3s they need, and that is precisely why fish oil has become so very popular in recent years.
Numerous studies, including one published in Scientific Reports back in 2014, prove that omega-3 fatty acids are directly related to insulin sensitivity. This means that when you consume fish oil regularly, your body can regulate its blood sugar more efficiently. In turn, your metabolism increases, you can gain muscle more easily, and your energy levels will remain stable throughout the day. When buying a fish oil supplement, make sure you look for triglyceride forms, which enhance bioavailability and allow your body to absorb more of the essential fatty acids.
No matter how well you plan your diet, it’s hard to get the daily recommended allowance of all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. In fact, counting and planning can become quite daunting, and it can even spoil your appetite altogether. Most nutritionists agree that as long as you’re eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates, then chances are good that you are coming very close to meeting these nutritional guidelines on a weekly basis, if not daily.
Nonetheless, most of the vitamins and minerals you consume are water soluble. This means that anything you consume in excess is filtered out of your body and excreted via your urine. As such, adding a multivitamin supplement to your daily routine is always a good idea; it ensures that you’re filling in the gaps that your diet may not be filling. Choose a multivitamin that contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and look for extras that are beneficial for your gender and age group, such as iron or calcium.
If you’re trying to find the best workout supplement but you aren’t sure where to start, any of the options above can certainly help you improve your performance and your physique in time. Remember that not even the best workout supplements can make up for an unhealthy or imbalanced diet, so be sure to eat right and stay hydrated to get the most out of them.