I am a big advocate of natural solid foods. They not only provide the best taste, but also are better for the body. However sometimes, it is difficult to get the nutrients you require into your body. So this is where supplements can help.
However there is plenty of rubbish out there on the market, so which supplements should you get? Well here are the 6 I recommend (I suggest you go for natural versions of these if possible):
1. Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is a high quality protein which is very quickly digested. This is perfect for when you require a quick injection of protein! Hence you want to use this just before, during or after your workout, where you need protein fast.
A quick tip- you can make this an even better pre-and-post workout drink, by mixing in sugar or dextrose (a form of sugar), so that there are double the number of carbohydrate calories to protein calories. Yes you will need to do a little maths work though.
2. Casein Protein Powder
Unfortunately most people believe that whey protein is the best protein to take whatever the situation, and so just keep buying whey!
However it is not the correct protein for meal replacement, where you require a slow-digesting protein that provides you with bursts of protein over time.
Casein protein is the correct protein for that, as it is a protein that is absorbed over time. So use casein protein shakes to replace the protein you can't get from meals.
3. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) e.g. Fish Oils Or Flax Seed Oils
It is interesting to know that around 80% of the US population are deficient in essential fatty acids!
Essential fatty acids are found in unsaturated fats and help boost the release of testosterone and growth hormone, which leads to substantial muscle growth. They also help protect the joints and bones from damage and aid recovery time.
When buying, the best source of essential fatty acids is either Flax seed oil supplements (vegetarian option) or fish oil supplements.
4. A Set Of Multi-Vitamins
Getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals is essential when it comes to muscle growth. They can help in transportation of protein around the body, and also in the release of muscle growing hormones etc.
So if you are finding it hard to get enough vitamins or minerals in your normal food, it is important you get yourself a decent set of multi-vitamins!
Creatine is naturally found in your body. But the depletion of it stops you training longer and completing more reps in a set. So its presence, means you can do more reps and that equates to higher muscle growth! In addition, creatine also pulls fluid into the cells of your muscle fibers, which makes them look bigger (this process is known as volumization).
So this is good for muscle gain, and looking more muscular but also breaking out of plateaus. However, be warned, too much creatine has been said to have bad side effects, so as much as it is great for muscle gain, I suggest you take this carefully and drink loads of water when you're on it.
Glutamine is found in the body naturally, and helps deal with stresses you put on your body through weight training.
Sometimes though there isn't enough and you take longer to recover from a workout! Glutamine as supplement can help there, and improve your recovery times!
So Lets Recap
The 6 supplements you should look at are whey protein powder, casein protein powder, fish or flax oil, a set of multi-vitamins, creatine and, finally, glutamine. You don't need anything else!