Workout Supplements Guide

Learn the pros and cons of common workout supplements and whether they’ll work for your workout.

Achieving optimal performance and reaching your fitness goals often requires more than just dedication to your workout routine. Whether you're a seasoned athlete or just beginning your fitness adventure, understanding how to fuel your workout can be a game-changer. Learn the pros and cons of common workout supplements and whether they’ll work for your workout.

Creatine

Creatine is an amino acid, or protein building block, needed to support body structure and muscles. Creatine may enhance performance and increase muscle mass in older adults but this is partially due to water retention (1).  

Creatine is found mainly from animal foods like meat, fish, and poultry. While it’s possible to get sufficient creatine from natural foods, if you follow a plant-based diet, you may find it beneficial to consider creatine supplementation. Aim for about 3-5 grams per day, depending on your medical history and goals (2). 

BCAA’s 

Leucine, valine, and isoleucine make up the group of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are different from other amino acids because they elevate more quickly in your bloodstream after consuming them. This makes them swiftly accessible to your muscle tissues (3). 

BCAAs are naturally found in:

  • Leucine: beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, eggs, and soybeans.
  • Valine: meat, dairy, mushrooms, soy products, and peanuts.
  • Isoleucine: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and seeds.

If you’re not able to get enough from the foods you eat, or are looking to reach a specific fitness goal, you may want to consider supplementing. It’s advisable to consume all three BCAAs at the same time, with a ratio of 2:1:1 for leucine, isoleucine, and valine (4). This ratio is beneficial because leucine can promote muscle synthesis and prevent the breakdown of muscle protein. Just keep in mind that the precise dosage of BCAA supplements lacks sufficient clinical research.

As some studies suggest a connection between elevated BCAA levels and conditions like diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease, it’s crucial to consult your physician before considering BCAA supplements (5). 

Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee, tea, certain energy drinks, and supplements. Many people use caffeine as a performance enhancer for workouts due to its ability to temporarily increase alertness and reduce the perception of fatigue. 

Moderate amounts of caffeine have been linked to improved performance and endurance (6). But before downing a cup of coffee before your run, it's important to consider that everyone responds differently to caffeine. Excessive consumption can lead to side effects that may negatively impact fitness, such as jitteriness, increased heart rate, insomnia and digestive issues. Additionally, regular caffeine users may develop a tolerance over time.

If you’re interested in trying caffeine for a workout, check out more information here: How Caffeine Boosts Exercise Performance.

Protein powders

Protein is a macronutrient needed to help your body grow and repair. For endurance and strength athletes who are trying to increase muscle mass, protein recommendations are increased, to about 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound (1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day (7). 

This can be obtained by a healthy diet rich in protein foods such as eggs, poultry, dairy, tofu, nuts, and seeds but some people use protein powders for convenience purposes, such as in a protein smoothie. However, excess protein can contribute to excess calories over time. Some people may also experience stomach upset from some types of protein powder (8). 

Learn more about types of protein powders and what they contain: Protein Powder: The Hidden Scoop.

Workout supplement summary  

Workout supplements may provide an additional burst of energy, or extra nutrients, potentially boosting your workout endurance, strength during your exercise routine, or recovery afterwards. Most are considered safe for short-term use, typically lasting less than eight weeks (9). However, it’s important to check the ingredients

The best way to get nutrients you need to fuel a workout is through wholesome foods. Start supporting your body naturally with Fit fuel: what to eat before and after a workout or by downloading the Lifesum app.

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

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