Suspicious Supplements: Exercise Supplements Examined

You may have heard some weightlifters and Crossfit athletes discuss their supplement routines, but are supplements safe? For that matter, does a protein shake after a weightlifting workout work? What about supplements or multivitamins? What vitamins and minerals do you need to perform well and see improvements, and what has the potential to hurt you? Read on to discover common types of workout supplements, their health benefits!

In the United States, the FDA has very little power and regulation over “dietary supplements” because of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. The FDA has “good manufacturing practices,” or GMP, that help protect the quality of the supplement, but supplements lack the regulation that foods and medicines have. So what sort of exercise and dietary supplements exist, and what purposes do they serve?

Exercise Supplements

Fitness gurus have organized exercise supplements into two categories based on when you take them– pre-workout and post-workout. There are also chews and drinks for performance during a workout, but generally, these are only used by athletes competing in sports competitions.


Pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s,) and creatine-monohydrate. What do all these mean for you?

The caffeine provides energy for your workout. For the optimal workout, it is ideal that you consume around 200-500 milligrams of caffeine approximately 30 minutes before you exercise!

Beta-alanine is a compound that allows you to get more reps by buffering hydrogen ions. It can lead to a tingling feeling on your skin, so consume in moderation! Anything in the range of one-and-a-half grams to five grams is an ideal dosage.

Branched-chain amino acids, like leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are ideal for getting rid of next-day soreness. You should have double the amount of leucine as isoleucine and valine for the perfect blend.

Creatine, a contentious compound, is also essential and healthy for your gains. Used by weightlifters and bodybuilders to artificially pump up their muscles before competitions, creatine is a power source to help you with explosive lifts in your training.


Post-workout drinks include a different blend of elements. Traditionally, post-workout supplements contain BCAA’s, creatine, beta-alanine (see above,) whey protein, carbohydrates, and casein. Whey protein and casein, the two new ingredients on the list, work in tandem with each other to spike muscle protein production and enhances muscle production, respectively. The NIH has not adequately evaluated other materials in exercise supplements. A list of supplement ingredients published by the NIH evaluates all the active supplement ingredients and their findings on each one.

The Efficiency of Supplements

Many debates over the efficacy of supplements have happened in the last few years. For the most part, researchers have not proven most supplement ingredients to be efficient in your pursuit of gains. Many scientists and nutritionists believe that the best fuel from your body comes from food, not pills or shakes. Having a banana or a piece of toast is just as good as a protein shake or pre-workout bar, so long as you eat a healthy, well-rounded diet on a regular basis.

What do you think about supplements? Do you take supplements? Let us know in the comments section below!


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