the top 5 supplements every man should take

Supplements are supplementary, plain and simple. Don’t expect them to play a major role in your health or performance because they can’t. Diet, exercise, sleep, and hydration are far more important. Supplements are the icing on the cake.

If you walk into a supplement store, you’ll see aisles of bottles both big and small. These bottles are filled with pills and powders. They have colorful labels and names you can’t pronounce. If you pick up one of the bottles, you’ll see a grandiose promise to build more muscle, burn fat, or remarkably improve your health. Can they keep their promises?

Since the supplement companies aren’t claiming to cure a disease and therefore can’t be classified as a drug, many of these claims aren’t evaluated according to the FDA’s website. To be a savvy consumer, you must be skeptical of the claims supplement companies make on the bottle.

Thankfully, scientists sift through these products and test them out. Many are a waste of money, but some can help you. If you’re going to take a supplement, talk to your doctor first. Some supplements can be dangerous if you have a pre-existing health condition and some interact poorly with drugs you might be taking.


TOP 5 SUPPLEMENTS

Not many supplements live up to their claims, but there are at least five that have solid scientific evidence behind them.


CREATINE

This is perhaps the most researched supplement on the market. Originally sold as a muscle-building and strength-enhancing supplement, researchers found that it helps your brain and nervous system as well.

What It Is

Creatine is a substance that your body naturally produces. It’s an energy source for your muscles during short-burst activities. However, your body uses it quickly then moves on to using carbohydrates and fat for energy, so it’s not very useful for endurance. Supplementing with creatine bolsters your natural supply.

What It Does

Once you start supplementing with creatine, you’ll notice that you can hit the weights harder. It won’t make you stronger, but you’ll be able to eek out more reps. Over time, those extra reps make you stronger and help you build more muscle.

According to an article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine can also help you prevent and recover from injuries, perform better in hot conditions, and recover faster from training. Beyond training, creatine helps with neurological diseases and conditions, ranging from concussions to Parkinson’s disease.

How to Take It

Normally, your muscles are filled between 60-80% of their capacity with creatine. To saturate your muscles, take five grams per day, four times per day, for seven to 10 days. After that, you only need five to 10 grams per day to maintain creatine storage.

Post-workout is the best time to take creatine because there’s more blood flowing into your muscles. If you take it with carbohydrates, such as Gatorade, both the creatine and the carbohydrates will be more readily absorbed.

Every four to six weeks, take a week or two off from supplementation to boost your natural creatine production.

There are many variations of creatine supplements on the market, but creatine monohydrate is the most studied and the most effective, so stick with that.

Safety

According to a 2016 study in the journal, Amino Acids, five years of daily creatine supplementation at 30 grams per day had no adverse side effects. While it’s not recommended that you take 30 grams per day, you are certainly safe taking the recommended five to 10.


WHEY PROTEIN

Depending on how much protein you eat every day, whey protein shakes or bars can help you hit your daily requirements without filling you up too much. It’s a very useful supplement for vegetarians, and a tasty replacement for dessert if you find the right flavor.

What It Is

Whey protein is one of two types of protein found in milk. The other is casein. Whey protein is a fast-digesting protein and is very bioavailable, meaning your body will use it very efficiently. It’s one of the most digestible forms of protein, which makes it a popular post-workout supplement.

What It Does

When you drink or eat a whey protein supplement, you quickly digest and absorb protein to help your muscles rebuild and recover from a workout. The protein breaks down into amino acids, which your body can use to create new protein.

How to Take It

You can have whey protein before or after your workout, or during the day as a snack. It’s easily digestible, which means you won’t upset your stomach if you have it before a workout. The amino acids give you an energy boost, according to an article from examine.com, so it may help your workout. You can mix a scoop of protein with coffee for extra energy.

Safety

Whey protein is safe if you’re not exceeding the daily upper limit for protein, which is 3.5 grams per kilogram of body weight per day according to a 2016 study published in Food & Function. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try not to have more than 239 grams of protein per day.


CAFFEINE

One of the most popular supplements consumed worldwide, caffeine can pick you up if you’re feeling sluggish before your workout.

What It Is

Found in over 60 plants, caffeine is a naturally-occurring stimulant. Tea leaves, coffee beans, and cacao pods are the most well-known and most delicious sources of caffeine. Synthetic caffeine is used in most supplements and energy drinks that don’t contain tea or coffee extract. Synthetic caffeine is absorbed faster but won’t last as long as naturally-occurring caffeine.

What It Does

Caffeine is technically a psychoactive drug that affects adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical that’s released as the day goes on and during physical activity. It makes you relaxed and sleepy. Caffeine prevents adenosine from doing its job, which is why it makes you feel energized and alert.

The energy boost from caffeine can give you a slight boost in strength and endurance, according to an article from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. However, your tolerance to caffeine rises quickly and its effects diminish. If you take caffeine for performance, take regular breaks to let your body adapt.

How to Take It

You can take a caffeine pill, chug an energy drink, or sip a hot tea or coffee to get your daily dose of caffeine. Many pre-workout supplements have caffeine mixed in. You can look up the caffeine content of most drinks online.

Safety

As long as you don’t have over 600 milligrams or six cups of coffee per day, you shouldn’t worry about your caffeine intake. Your blood pressure will likely rise if you have caffeine, so people who have high blood pressure should be cautious, according to an article from the US Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Caffeine may disrupt your sleep, so cut out the caffeine six hours before bed.

 

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS

This easy-to-digest supplement is a great alternative to water if you’re looking for something tasty to sip on during your workout. It also has muscle-building benefits.

What It Is

Amino acids join to form proteins. When you eat protein, your body must break it down to amino acids, then reassemble it into new proteins. Think of amino acid supplements as protein in its simplest form.

There are 20 amino acids, and your body can create 11 of them. That leaves nine amino acids that are considered “essential,” which means you have to get them from food or supplements.

Of those nine amino acids, three of them have a unique chemical structure which earned them the name “branched-chain amino acids.”

While there are branched-chain amino acid supplements on the market, they aren’t as effective supplementing with all of the essential amino acids, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

What It Does

Taking an essential amino acid supplement provides your body with extra building materials to make muscle. It won’t give you mind-blowing results, but it can help you get a little more out of each workout.

How to Take It

According to an article from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, taking three to six grams of essential amino acids during or after your workout can stimulate muscle growth.

Safety

There are no known side-effects to essential amino acid supplements taken at the proper dose.


MELATONIN

If you’re jet-lagged, having trouble sleeping, or working strange hours, consider trying this sleep-enhancing supplement.

What It Is

Your body produces melatonin as part of your natural sleep cycle. When it’s close to bedtime, this hormone is released to make you drowsy.

When it gets dark at night your melatonin production ramps up. If you go to bed at roughly the same time every night, melatonin will be released on a set schedule. This is called your circadian rhythm.

What It Does

A good night’s sleep is important for health and performance in the gym. Melatonin can help if you’re frustrated with a lack of sleep.

If your schedule gets messed up, like when you’re traveling or working strange hours, your body might not produce melatonin when you want it to. By taking a melatonin supplement, you can make yourself drowsy at the right time.

Even if you’re on a consistent schedule, you might go through a period where you can’t sleep very well. Melatonin can help you fall asleep faster, according to an article from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

How to Take It

Take one to three milligrams an hour before bed.

Safety

Short-term studies show that melatonin is safe and non-habit forming. However, until long-term studies are published, avoid taking melatonin consistently. Save it for when you’re traveling or having a few rough nights of sleep.

 

Henry is an NYC-based personal trainer and freelance writer. He’s been lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life, ranging from professional athletes to grandparents. You can find out more by visiting his site, henryhalse.com

progress — By the rhone team
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performance — By lalo torres
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