This article is intended for the beginner who wants to amplify their bodybuilding efforts by starting to add supplements to their bodybuilding routines. The information contained here is very basic and therefore won't be of much value to most bodybuilders who already know what supplements are working best for them.
First things first: supplements are not essential
Supplements are not essential. It is possible to get all the nutrients you need for muscle growth from food. Supplements, as per the name, were originally made to supplement the diet to make up for any shortfalls in nutrition a person might not be getting from their current diets. They are also convenient. It is easier to drink a protein shake to give your muscles what they need straight after a workout than to eat a chicken and a loaf of bread on your way home from the gym. They also help to achieve a person's caloric goals. For example, a person needing to increase caloric intake can do this much easier by adding a mass gainer (high in calories) to their diets and a person looking to decrease calories (for fat loss) can take a low calorie (and low carbohydrate) protein shake instead of a meal which would typically be high in carbohydrates and fats. They are also cheaper regarding macro nutrient content. Gram for gram, it is cheaper to consume protein from certain nutrition shakes then other sources like meat.
Do not depend on supplements only
It is not healthy to leave food altogether and use supplements only. Firstly, a lot of nutrients can only be found in real food. An apple, for example, has a great variety of minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and other micro nutrients that are not found in supplements. Supplements are mostly made to be easily absorbed by the body. When you stop eating normal foods regularly, your digestive system gets used to easily digested, powdered foods and will (after a period of time when it has only been using powdered nutrition) struggle to digest normal food.
Supplements are not steroids
There is a big difference between supplements and steroids. Do not expect them to do the same thing. Supplements sold in stores are not as potent, but do not have the same risks and side effects as steroids.
Can you take supplements if you are under the age of 18?
Yes you can, but not all supplements are considered safe for people under the age of 18. It is not recommended for people under the age of 18 to use creatine, testosterone boosters or high levels of caffeine and other stimulants. Meal replacements, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are fine for younger people to take, as long as they don't have the other stuff. Some argue that under 18's should not take a supplement at all because they don't need to, though. As with all age groups, supplements cannot replace a healthy diet, but add to it.
Here are the most common times for people to use supplements.
Pre-workouts are usually mixed with water and used half an hour before exercise. They are usually high in stimulants like caffeine and are used for energy, to increase endurance and strength during exercise, to increase muscle pumps and to amplify a workout's ability to grow muscle. Ingredients often include creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine, HMB, nitric oxide boosters, testosterone boosters and vaso-dilators.
These supplements are used during a workout. This is also usually in a juice-like form, mixed with water. They are used to re-hydrate, give energy, and keep the body in an anabolic (muscle building) state, reduce muscle break down and increase endurance. Common ingredients for these include electrolytes, amino acids, carbohydrates, sugars, creatine and beta-alanine.
Post workout supplements are the most common, supplying immediate nutrients that a muscle needs to recover and grow straight after exercise. People trying to lose weight will mostly opt for high protein and low carbohydrate shakes; and people looking to gain mass will mostly opt for high carbohydrate and moderate protein shakes. These shakes are similar to hick milkshakes and are usually mixed with water or milk, depending on caloric goals. Common ingredients for these are protein, carbohydrates, creatine, testosterone boosters, amino acids and fats.
Supplements used before bed are usually slow release proteins like casein, so that the body has a steady inflow of protein to feed muscles during a long period where nothing will be consumed for the body to use. They can also include testosterone boosters, glutamine and growth hormone boosters to speed up recovery.
Meal replacements, as per the name, are supplements used in the place of a meal. These are used due to costs, convenience or better management of macro nutrient balances like decrease carbohydrate or increased protein intake. These are often in the form of shakes and bars. They are also taken as snacks (between breakfast and lunch; or between lunch and dinner).
Remember to keep whole foods in your diets, especially foods that are rich in fiber and micro nutrients. Supplements can also be costly, so choose wisely and try a few brands and products out to see what works the best for you. STAY STRONG!