A beginner's guide to taking sports supplements

We’re all looking for that extra edge in life. Whether it’s in the boardroom at the office or in the weight room at the gym, finding something to give you that extra advantage can be a big boost to achieving your goals. For fitness enthusiasts, workout supplements can provide that added push. But trying to figure out how to start taking supplements and what products to start with can be a daunting task, especially when there are thousands of choices on the market to choose from. If you’re new to supplements, here are some tips that can help guide you through the process.

Talk to your doctor/health care provider first: This is a critical first step in the supplement process that is all too often overlooked. There can be lots of dangerous ingredients out there, so it’s important to know what to look for based on your medical condition. Your doctor can tell you what ingredients to avoid, what supplements you might be allergic to and which supplements might cause adverse reactions based on your medical history.

Identify the goals you want to achieve: It’s important to understand what you want from your supplement based on your fitness goals. Most supplements are designed to help with specific targets. For example, if you’re overweight and looking to drop some pounds, you probably want a fat burner as opposed to something that is designed to make you bigger. On the flip side, if you’re skinny and looking to add bulk, you’re more likely to seek out creatine, proteins or BCAAs to build muscle.

Common types of supplements and how they can help you: The following are some of the more common types of supplements you’re likely to encounter as a fitness newbie.

  • Proteins: Usually taken right before or after a workout, proteins help you add bulk and strength while optimizing your recovery process. Proteins are among the most used supplements on the market today, because they are essential to building muscle. Make sure your supplement has enough protein in it (24 grams and above is adequate) and beware of formulas with high sugar content and unhealthy additives. Optimum Nutrition's Gold Standard Whey is typically the best rated protein along with MuscleTech NitroTech Whey Gold and MusclePharm Combat 100% Whey.
  • Fat Burners: These are usually designed for people who want to -- surprise -- burn off fat. They are typically designed to increase metabolism, reduce appetite and increase your core temperature to help burn calories. Myokem makes one of the best, top-rated fat burners with Pyroxamine. Some of the other top fat burners include: QuadraLean Thermogenic, Hydroxycut Hardcore Next Gen and Cellucor Super HD. Over time, your body will get desensitized to fat burners as well as other stimulant-based formulas. If you stay on them too long, these can become counterproductive and there can be some serious health consequences, so you should only stay on them for about 3-4 weeks at a time.
  • Pre-Workout formulas: These tend to be stimulant heavy and are designed to give you an energy boost along with increased endurance and focus. But again, cycling on and off is very important here. Pre-kaged, N.O.-Xplode and MuscleTech Vapor X5 are some of the more trusted pre-workout formulas. Pre workout powders can provide a nice boost for your workout, but you should not stack these with other stimulant-based products, otherwise there can be serious health effects.
  • Creatine: The top supplement for performance in the gym, creatine provides fuel to your muscles when working out. Look for supplements that utilize creatine monohydrate for the best results in building muscle and strength. Among the best are MuscleTech Platinum Creatine, Micronized Creatine Powder by Optimum Nutrition and Beast Creature.
  • Amino Acids (BCAAs): Amino Acids, or branched-chain amino acids, are the building blocks of protein and essential to building muscle, adding endurance and recovery. BCAAs, particularly leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are key to protein synthesis. Myokem’s mTOR PRO is at the top of the list, along with AminoLean and Amino Energy.

They’re called supplements for a reason: These products are there to supplement, or enhance, your workout or fitness goals. There are no miracle workers out there, so don’t expect supplements to have an effect if you’re not putting in the work. Like anything in life, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. So keep in mind that supplements are just one part of a healthy workout or fitness regimen that also includes proper diet, exercise and weight lifting.

Watch out for banned or illegal products: Different countries have different laws regarding supplements so it’s important to find out that information, otherwise you might have a long wait trying to get your order through customs. In most places, anabolic steroids and amphetamines are illegal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone to sell it to you over the internet. Remember, these products are banned for a good reason, because they can do serious harm to your body and even kill you.

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