You train hard, eat well, and are looking for a way to maximize your results from all that hard work. Your gym buddies have brought up sports supplements to you on many occasions. But where to begin? Pre-workout formulas? Post-workout? During a workout? Vitamins, minerals, soy protein, whey protein–what is what and why do I need it? Where do I even start?

Let’s Start With The Word Supplement

The word supplement means to enhance or complete something. Supplements should enhance, complete and complement your diet. They play a vital role in increasing certain nutrients your body may not get enough of from whole foods alone.

It is important to remember that the foundation of your diet should be formed with whole foods, but supplements can provide the missing nutrients your body needs.

Where Do I Begin?

The best place to begin maximizing your training is by assessing your diet and training. Consider your long-term fitness and health goals and ask yourself these two questions: 1) Is my training ideal for this goal? And 2) Is my diet ideal for this goal? Once these questions are answered, you can then focus more on specific requirements.

For example, when maximizing muscle growth, how do you determine which supplements are best? Below you will find five key factors that contribute to muscle growth that both supplementation and nutrition can affect:

  • Calories: Are you eating enough calories to promote muscle growth and fuel training sessions?
  • Protein: Does your daily diet include enough protein? When trying to build muscle, the average man needs 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
  • Decreasing Muscle Breakdown: To help reduce muscle damage caused by intense weight training, it is important to have adequate nutrition and protein.
  • Increasing Training Intensity: When you train harder, it creates an increased incentive for muscle growth. Harder training can include increased duration, more volume and more weight.
  • Improving Hormone Levels: The hormone testosterone plays a critical role in muscle growth.

Consider each of the above factors and determine where your dietary weaknesses are. Next, look into supplements for that specific need.

  • Calories: If you don’t consume enough calories, a weight-gainer can help add those extra needed calories.
  • Protein: Consider a high-quality whey protein shake to meet your protein needs.
  • Decreasing Muscle Breakdown: An ideal choice is a slow-releasing protein, like casein, taken at night.
  • Increasing Training Intensity: Creatine is a high-intensity energy source that is very popular thanks to its proven benefits.

Pre-Workout Supplementation

Why would I need a pre-workout supplement? Perhaps you train early in the morning, or after a long workday when energy levels are hurting. Maybe you need a lift to get you energized again. A good pre-workout formula provides you with energy, focus and enhanced performance during your session.

How do I take this supplement? About 45 minutes prior to training, take a pre-workout formula.

Supplementation During a Workout

Why would I need a supplement during my workout? If you have high-intensity training sessions or they are especially long, an intra-workout formula can be helpful. These supplements deliver amino acids to the muscles during a training session to decrease the breakdown of muscle. Protein synthesis is increased as well, which is needed for muscle growth.

How do I take this supplement? During intense training sessions sip on a 500ml intra preparation.

Post-Workout Supplementation

Why would I need a post-workout supplement? There is no definite time frame to consume protein and carbs; however, as soon as possible following a workout is always an excellent idea. This allows the growth and repair process to begin and helps in refueling the muscles.

How do I take this supplement? Consume a post-workout formula as soon as possible following your training session. Furthermore, about 60-90 minutes after, consume a balanced meal. Post-workout recovery is an ongoing process and does not end with a shake.