Your diet can take you pretty far, but the more you strength train the more you will realize that there are some supplements you can take to increase performance and boost strength.
This is not cheating in any sense, (we’re not talking about anabolic steroids) we are simply talking about supplements that are all natural – most of which are already produced by the body or obtained in your diet but can be supplemented in higher doses to stimulate faster and more concentrated results.
Why Supplements Are Important
It is important to understand that not all supplements are essential. The name states exactly that – they are supplemental to your health. You do not NEED to have them in your diet, but if your goal is to increase performance and train harder at higher intensities, some supplements can help.
Supplements become important for those that need to recover faster, overload muscles for a specific competition or even load muscles with energy for a race.
With that said, the average Joe who is training for better body composition or strength will do just fine eating a whole-food diet.
Things to Consider Before Buying Supplements
Some Provide Fake Strength
Although this is uncommon, some supplements sell based on their unique property to make you bulk up quicker without actually providing a real translation to your strength in the gym. By this, we mean supplements like mass gainers (generally 60-80% simple carbohydrates) which influence weight gain, and not necessarily gain in muscle density.
Many Supplements Are Obtained Through Your Existing Diet
Assuming you are getting serious about your health and eat a well-balanced diet (which many people do not) you should be getting much of the energy from your food and may not actually have a need for supplementation.
Supplements Are Supplemental
We touched on this earlier but it is an important note to emphasize. Supplements will provide faster results, they will help you to grow stronger and more powerful – but they are not 100% essential. If the name of the game is results – supplements should be included in your program.
The 5 Best Supplements to Increase Your Strength and Mass
Alright, now that we have an understanding for how supplements work and you have an idea for if they are essential for you or not – let’s get into some of the most effective supplements for the true training of strength and mass (no fillers here).
One of the most underrated supplements on anyone workout list, L-Leucine is an amino acid obtained through protein-rich foods like meat, beans, nuts and fish. This amino acid has the unique property of stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle protein synthesis is the system responsible for promoting recovery and advances in strength recovery in the muscle. In fact, some research has even shown that when leucine is not present, recovery will take longer and MPS will not occur at such a rapid rate.
We’d recommend supplementing 3-5g of Leucine following a workout. For best results, you can take with a berry fruit juice as this may help to increase metabolization.
The king of all supplements. I’d personally go as far as saying if you are not supplementing creatine you are not a strength athlete at all. Although this supplement has much confusion surrounding it, in actuality, creatine works to accelerate recovery time and promote more strength intra-set.
Creatine supplementation will help to replenish lost “phosphocreatine” from muscle contractions during a workout. The more creatine you have in your system, the faster your body can resynthesize phosphocreatine and the energy system for contractions “Adenosine TriPhosphate”.
It is worth mentioning that creatine is best suited for those involved in high-intensity strength training or powerlifting – but it may not be beneficial for cardio training.
This is one of the supplements in a grey area. D-aspartic acid is an amino acid regularly found in protein-rich foods, but when supplemented in high doses has been shown on some accounts to increase free-testosterone.
It is important to note that this is a short-term increase in testosterone and does not last longer than 4-6 hours. In this case, it could be an effective ingredient as a pre-workout, but might not actually help to provide a long-term boost in strength.
A personal favourite of the bodybuilding community – citrulline malate is a unique supplement that helps to vasodilate the veins and allow for greater blood flow and reduction in fatigue.
Simply put, citrulline can help you to transport more working fuel, blood and oxygen to muscles under stress. During a workout, this could mean the difference between hitting a PR or being 1 rep short.
This could be the most underrated supplement on the list. Although many high-performance athletes have known for some time that alanine can help you perform better it is only recently becoming popular in mainstream supplements.
2000mg of alanine has been shown to have the unique property of buffering lactic acid. Incredible right?
Ever been sore after a long set and it feels like your muscles lack the power to get into the next set? This could be lactic acid pooling in your muscle.
Beta-alanine has the unique property of delaying this onset of lactic acid by buffering the hydrogen ions – allowing you to train harder, for longer – without feeling fatigue.
Supplement for Strength and Power
Be smart about what you supplement. Just because a mass gainer says it will help you put on weight does not mean that it will actually help you to grow stronger.
Make educated consumer purchases and ensure that the products you are taking include a good dosage of each of the ingredients above.
If there is one supplement that is more important than any other it is creatine (especially as a non-meat eater). Keeping in mind that creatine is found in animal tissue, if you eat a good amount of red meat and fish, you may already be getting enough creatine in your diet. For those who do not eat, creatine is essential and will help you to grow stronger.
Eat clean and enjoy the strength gains but remember to supplement when necessary.