November 03, 2022
If you go to a gym or frequent health food stores, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a wide variety of workout supplements available. They promise everything from weight loss to increased energy and improved muscle gain. But do the advertised benefits really live up to the hype? And, more importantly, are there any risks associated with using them?
You don’t have to be a gym rat to use workout supplements, but there are a few things you should know before taking them.
Supplements are dietary formulas created to help boost your performance during a workout. They’re commonly found in powder form, although shakes, bars, and other types are available. The options are endless when it comes to brands, ingredients, and uses. This can make it intimidating to find one that works for you. That’s why it’s essential to become educated on the many different ingredients found in supplements, and how they can affect your body.
Workout supplements blend together different ingredients to optimize a workout. They’re effective because they deliver these ingredients in a more concentrated form than eating a meal. For example, nitric oxide precursors can help improve blood flow, while stimulants like caffeine increase energy. Creatine, protein, and amino acids are meant to increase muscle mass and reduce recovery time between workouts.
Supplements can be used both before and after a workout. Pre-workout supplements are meant to improve a workout by boosting energy to maximize performance, while post-workout formulas or protein help with muscle growth and recovery.
The same ingredients found in supplements are also present in many whole foods. You can often get the same nutrients and benefits by eating a meal a few hours before your workout. Try something with a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Even a banana and coffee can replicate many of the benefits you’d get from a supplement.
There can be side effects to supplements, especially if you consume more than the quantity recommended or choose ingredients that don’t sit well with your body. Many supplements have caffeine, which can leave you jittery if you’re already drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Creatine can result in water retention and bloating. Citrulline can cause headaches. Niacin (vitamin B3) can cause flushing of the skin. And beta-alanine can trigger a tingling sensation in your neck, face, or on your hands. Any ingredient has the potential to upset your stomach or cause other mild reactions, so be sure to pay close attention to how you feel whenever you’re trying a new supplement.
Workout supplements are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration for safety or effectiveness, so if you do decide to use them as part of your fitness routine, be sure to consult with your doctor first. Most importantly, remember that workout supplements are not a substitute for the core of your workout recovery plan: hydration, proper nutrition, and plenty of sleep!