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The Best Workout Supplements to Match Your Fitness Goals

BY: Editors | Aug 6, 2018

The cold truth is that there's no magic pill that'll make you faster, stronger, thinner, or healthier all by itself; the most indispensable means to those ends are exercise and a healthy diet. Nonetheless, without the right workout supplements, there's a good chance you won't maximize the benefits of all the work you put into your exercise routine. And depending on the type of athlete you are and what you want to gain from your workouts, the supplements you should take can vary. So which workout supplements are right for you?

Muscle-Building Supplements

Whey Protein

Whey is one of the purest available protein supplements, especially if you go for whey-protein isolate, which contains an even bigger portion of protein per serving. When taken after a resistance-training workout, it helps supply blood to muscles and kick-starts protein synthesis (i.e., muscle development).

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Creatine

Creatine is a molecule found naturally in the body that is built up of a trio of amino acids that build muscle quickly. Taking creatine can increase the volume of the cells in your muscles and boost water content in them. This not only gives you a short-term "pump," but also stretches and primes those cells for further, more lasting muscle growth.

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Beta Alanine

A naturally occurring, nonessential (meaning the body can reproduce it on its own) amino acid found in the body, beta alanine works with other amino acids in the body to regulate the amount of acid that enters your muscles. The more acidic a muscle is, the less it can contract, so basically, beta alanine helps keep muscles ready for work and helps avoid acid buildup and its subsequent fatigue and cramps.

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Fat-Burning Supplements

Green Coffee Bean Extract

As you may have guessed, this supplement comes from coffee beans when they're still green, or before they're roasted. The main compound in green coffee beans that's associated with health benefits is the antioxidant chlorogenic acid. Research is still ongoing, but some studies have seen subjects using green coffee bean extract lose as many as 18 pounds over a five-month period.

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Green-Tea Extract

Unlike other teas, green tea isn't withered or oxidized. This keeps all the good stuff—like thermogenics called catechins, which boost the calorie-burning process and can help drive weight loss. One catechin in particular, epigallocatechin gallate, has been shown to keep athletes' metabolism up, which can stretch out how long your body burns fat during and after exercise.

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Garcinia Cambogia

Also known as the tropical fruit malabar tamarind, garcinia cambogia is a popular weight-loss supplement. The main ingredient associated with weight loss is something called hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Like many supplements claiming to have weight-loss benefits, there's still no consensus on garcinia cambogia. However, HCA has been linked in many studies to appetite suppression, and it has also been thought to be an effective blocker of fat-building enzymes.

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Race-Prep Supplements

L-Glutamine

With the long distances and grueling workouts runners go through in prepping for a race, L-glutamine can come in handy during training. It's lauded for its ability to keep muscles from becoming sore during long periods of exercise. Additionally, it has been shown to strengthen the immune system and protect against the upper-respiratory infections that sometimes haunt marathoners and long-distance runners.

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Fish Oil

Fish oil is championed as an all-around supplement that almost any athlete can benefit from, but it can be particularly good for an athlete on a running routine. Its anti-inflammatory properties can keep you from stiffening up, they hasten muscle recovery following runs, and they even lessen the amount of oxygen you go through during exercise—the latter helping make the work you're doing feel a little easier.

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Energy-Boosting Supplements

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs comprise three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They're found in high-protein food sources, such as beans, eggs, and meats. These amino acids can help keep fellow amino acid tryptophan—yes, the stuff that makes you feel sleepy on Thanksgiving—from entering the brain. This helps prevent the brain from recognizing fatigue, which can keep you going during workouts.

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Caffeine Anhydrous

Plenty of athletes extol the energy-spiking virtues of coffee before a workout, and caffeine anhydrous—which is essentially just dehydrated caffeine—works the same way. But it can do more than just keep you from yawning your way through a workout: it's also been known to decrease the pain felt in muscles during exercise, and it can boost your endurance, too.

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Vitamin B12

One of eight B vitamins found in the body, vitamin B12 is essential in every cell's metabolism, and it's involved in the synthesis of fatty acids. It's arguably one of the most important vitamins for your body when it comes to energy; a shortage of B vitamins leads to a shortage of the body's version of fuel, ATP. Since B12 is found in foods like cheese, shellfish, eggs, and poultry, using a B12 supplement or injection can be especially helpful for vegans or vegetarians.

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