Understanding the Basics: Supplements

You hear your stomach gargle with hunger and then disappointment sets in; you’ve tried every diet out there. You’re doing endless amounts of cardio and gym sessions and NOTHING’S CHANGING.  

Proper supplementation can be a big help when it comes to changing your physique and really hitting your fitness goals. Don’t get me wrong, that “magical pill” that everyone wants still doesn’t exist. You’ve got to put in the work! You have to eat healthily and exercise to get there, but when you couple the proper workout and meal plan with the right supplements, the results can be incredible!  

This doesn’t mean all supplements are good. I cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourself before beginning a supplement regimen. With that being said, it is my goal to give you a quick overview of some of the supplements that I recommend.  

Protein: Protein is a big buzzword these days. When you walk into the grocery store or listen to food commercials, you are enticed to buy something based on how high that product is in protein. This is for good reason; our bodies NEED protein and quite a bit of it! I personally like to make sure at least 30% of my total daily calories are from protein. But do we really need protein shakes? No. The word supplement implies being ‘in addition to’, not ‘essential’. This is how it works: your body needs nine essential amino acids and it doesn’t matter if it’s a protein shake or a piece of chicken as long as you are getting all the appropriate amino acids. It’s just more convenient to bring a protein shake to grab as you run out the door or drink at the gym, rather than lugging around a tub of chicken.  Your body needs that protein to recover and rebuild after your workout. Aim for getting 20-25g within 30 minutes of your workout.  

BCAA’s: BCAA’s or branch chain amino acids, which are a group of three essential amino acid: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. “Say what?!”  It sounds like we are back in chemistry class, am I right? To put it simply, these amino acids help reduce fatigue, decrease muscle soreness, and aid in protein synthesis. BCAA’s work best when consumed during your workout.   

Pre-workouts and Caffeine: We tend to overschedule ourselves and so I often get the excuse, “I am too tired to workout.” Caffeine can be a great supplement to take as a pre-workout to give you that energy boost you need to fuel your workout. While caffeine is a stimulant and can be addictive, and you can build up a tolerance, I suggest cycling on and off of caffeine. I like to do 8 weeks on, 4 weeks off. So, in an 8-week period take caffeine on all the days you need, when the 8 weeks are up, go 4 whole weeks without using any caffeine.  Note: It has been found that taking caffeine later in the day can impact your quality of sleep, so when using pre-workouts, try doing so earlier in the day (e.g. an early morning workout). 

Creatine: Supplementing with creatine is a great supplement if you are trying to build muscle. Creatine increases your endurance, which helps you to be able to complete a tough set and crank out those last few reps.   

Utilizing supplements can be a great tool to help you be successful in achieving your fitness goals. These are the supplements I get asked about the most, but there are so many other supplements out there and so much I didn’t cover about these supplements; so, feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions you have: @trainerkelli or! 

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Written by Kelli Bettridge, CPT, FNS

Kelli is a NASM CPT and is FNS certified. She currently trains clients at Vasa Fitness. Kelli earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Science from Utah Valley University where she currently teaches Fitness For Life.