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Wake Up To The Power Of One

Should You Take These 3 Fitness Supplements?

As athletes, we spend a lot of time looking for those special “cheat codes.” Those little practices, superfoods, technology, or new movements will give us a competitive edge to use in high-consequence scenarios. When it comes to working out and achieving peak physical performance, supplements often steal the spotlight. But how much do we really know about them, and which ones should you take?

Three supplements come up in conversation more often than others: creatine monohydrate, whey protein, and pre-workout. We’re going to break them down, look at the pros and cons, the science, and the best practices to help you determine if they’re worth the hype.

“It’s important to make sure that all the right stuff is getting in at the right time so you don’t lose anything and you’re not wasting any time at the gym.” —Henry Cavill

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Let’s dive in! Should you take these three fitness supplements?

Creatine Monohydrate: The Powerhouse Supplement

Creatine is naturally created by your body and is stored in your muscles as phosphocreatine. During high-intensity exercise (hello, HIIT), it helps regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which you may recall is the primary energy carrier in your cells! The natural replenishment of ATP from creatine allows for sustained muscle contractions and enhanced performance, aka. you can lift longer and heavier or go further. Supplementing creatine helps keep those muscle stores full, providing a more ready supply of ATP. 

Pros:

🔸Increased Strength and Power: Creatine is known for its ability to boost strength and power, making it a favorite among athletes and bodybuilders. Research shows that creatine supplementation can increase muscle mass and improve high-intensity exercise performance.

🔸Enhanced Recovery: Creatine can also help with faster recovery post-workout, reducing muscle damage and inflammation.

Cons:

🔸Water Retention: A common side effect of this supplement is water retention, which can lead to discomfort and a temporary increase in body weight.

🔸Digestive Issues: As with many supplements, some users report stomach discomfort, cramps, or diarrhea—especially when taken in large doses.

Science and Research:

Luckily, creatine is one of the most researched supplements on the market. Numerous studies have confirmed its effectiveness in improving muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance in both men and women. There are even some studies that suggest supplementing with creatine can boost brain power, too.

Best Practices:

🔸Dosage: A typical does of creatine is 3-5 grams per day. Many companies will recommend a loading phase of a higher dose for the first week or even four weeks (depending on what their suggested dose is), followed by a lower maintenance dose daily.

🔸Timing: Take it post-workout for better absorption. However, most literature suggests there isn’t a “best time” for taking the supplement

Other Notes:

Creatine monohydrate is the purest base form of creatine and is the most easily absorbed, but there are other versions out there. The most common form is an unflavored powder that can be easily mixed into protein shakes, pre-workouts, smoothies, oats, or even just into water. However, if you hate the potential chalkiness or texture that comes with a powder supplement, look for capsules or even tasty gummies—just be prepared to spend more for a premium supplement experience.

Should You Take Creatine Monohydrate?

As with anything, the choice is yours. Creatine can help boost strength and performance, lending a hand in building lean muscle. We suggest talking with a doctor or nutritionist before starting, and be sure to monitor for any side effects. The most important thing with taking creatine is to stay hydrated. Because it pulls water to your muscles, you need to stay extra hydrated. 

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Whey Protein: The Muscle Builder

Whey protein is quickly digested and absorbed, providing a rapid increase in complete amino acids in the bloodstream. This spike of amino acids stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is crucial for muscle repair and growth. When athletes focus heavily on macros and protein, they’ll generally turn to a protein supplement, like whey, to ensure they reach the right nutrient requirements to achieve their goals. It’s much easier than consuming an excessive number of chicken breasts to reach the same amounts. 

Pros:

🔸High-Quality Protein: Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids for muscle repair and growth.

🔸Convenience: Usually in powder form, it’s an easy and quick way to increase your protein intake—especially if you have a busy schedule.

🔸Fat Loss: Some studies suggest whey protein can aid in fat loss by promoting satiety and preserving lean muscle mass.

Cons:

🔸Digestion Difficulties: Individuals who are lactose intolerant may experience digestive issues like bloating and gas. Some proteins may also include other animal products and/or gluten.

🔸Over-Reliance: Relying too much on whey protein can lead to neglecting whole food sources, which, as you know, are part of the DRYWORLD laws.

🔸Chalkiness: Mixing a powder into anything can sometimes be difficult. Many people struggle with the flavor or “chalkiness” of some powders.

Science and Research:

Another extensively studied supplement, whey protein has proven to be effective in muscle protein synthesis. Studies found that whey protein specifically helped significantly increase muscle protein synthesis after resistance training.

Best Practices:

🔸Dosage: For most, 20-30 grams post-workout will be sufficient. However, it depends on your goals. Always discuss this with your nutritionist or coach first.

🔸Timing: Post-workout is ideal for muscle recovery, but you can take protein anytime to meet your daily needs. 

Should You Take Whey Protein?

If you’re struggling to meet your protein goals through diet alone, whey protein can be a helpful supplement! Just ensure you’re also getting nutrients for whole foods. As the name says, this is a supplement, not a replacement.

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Pre-Workout: The Energy Booster

Pre-workout supplements (aka. pre) often contain a blend of “energizing” ingredients, such as caffeine, beta-alanine, and citrulline malate. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, enhancing focus and energy—two things you really want for a great pump. Beta-alanine buffers acid in muscles, reducing fatigue and recovery times, while citrulline malate increases nitric oxide production… a fancy way of saying it improves blood flow and endurance.

Pros:

🔸Increased Energy and Focus: Energizing ingredients help motivate you to get to the gym and work really, really hard.

🔸Enhanced Performance: Thanks to ingredients like beta-alanine and citrulline malate, you can workout longer and harder with improved endurance and reduced fatigue.

Cons:

🔸Jitters and Crashes: Just like drinking too many cups of coffee, the high caffeine content in pre-workout can lead to jitters, anxiety, and an energy crash post-workout.

🔸Artificial Ingredients: Many pre-workouts contain artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. It’s not as pure a supplement as many other options.

Science and Research:

The overall efficacy of pre-workout blends can vary despite individual ingredients having been studied in depth (such as caffeine for performance and beta-alanine for endurance). A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition highlights caffeine’s role in enhancing athletic performance. The same study also advises caution due to potential side effects.

Best Practices:

🔸Dosage: Follow the manufacturer’s (or your nutritionist’s) recommendations. Usually, athletes consume 1-2 scoops about 30 minutes before a workout.

🔸Timing: Taking pre-workout too late in the day can disrupt your sleep due to high caffeine content; Another no-no according to our Law of 8 Hour Sleep.

Should You Take Pre-Workout?

If you are really struggling to get to the gym and stay motivated, and think an extra energy boost will help, then you may consider trying pre-workout. However, if you don’t handle stimulants well, this likely isn’t the supplement for you. Be mindful of the ingredients and your tolerance.

Consistency Is Key

Whatever you decide, the main factor for success is consistency! While supplements like creatine monohydrate, whey protein, and pre-workouts can enhance your workout routine, they’re not magic bullets. Many athletes are incredibly successful without supplementing at all.

Understand the pros and cons, as well as the science behind them to help make an informed decision. Then, be sure to always follow the best practices for your chosen product. Remember, supplements should always complement a well-rounded diet and training program—not replace them.

“I would take that pre-workout before doing my sprints and I actually did notice an enormous performance difference.” —Henry Cavill

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