The following is a guest post from Pill Scout, be sure to check out Pill Scout’s blog here where he discusses all things nutrition, herbs and supplements.
There’s so many broscientists out there when it comes to supplementation – Pill Scout knows his stuff and offers recommendations based upon his own research & supporting studies.
As a supplement nerd, I test out a lot of things, often times for the sake of trying it. My overall goal is to sort out all the stuff that works. Not being beholden to any company to shill their proprietary product gives me a lot of freedom to try things out and give an honest verdict about it to the point that I turn down a lot of offers to review proprietary products.
I will say this in regard to supplements for fitness: If you are already exercising and eating right, you won’t need much. Little things may help, like a pre-workout of some sort, but that’s about it. As you may already know, a little jar of pre-workout powder is not really necessary and can be expensive. You should be dropping any extra money you have on food.
However, there are a couple of exceptional substances that you should be taking because the benefits are absolutely worth it. You may be familiar with them already, so at the least consider this a friendly reminder.
You’ll find these two supplements in any pre-workout or exercise stack worth their salt. (In fact, they’ve earned spots in SJ’s custom pre-workout stack!)
Both of these natural substances have been proven in numerous studies to increase endurance, recovery and/or muscle mass. They’re inexpensive too. I’ll be sure to mention dosage, quirks and tips from my own experiences. On top of a good diet, exercise routine and good habits, these two supplements are – at the bare minimum – the heavy-hitters that will keep you meeting and surpassing your goals.
There’s a good reason for creatine’s reputation both in and outside the world of fitness: it’s the one substance that without a doubt does something positive for just about everyone. Aside from being extremely affordable and easy to find, it’s one of the most beneficial non-essential substances you can take.
It’s non-essential in that your body already produces and assimilates it from the food you get, but supplemented creatine’s greatest benefits that come from regular use alongside a solid exercise routine include an increase in lean muscle mass  and a significant increase in power output.  This means that creatine helps give you the results you want to see as well as to help you push yourself more every time you exercise.
“Loading doses” of creatine are not required but may help you to saturate your body more quickly with creatine and give you results you can see more quickly. A beginner’s loading dose may be 5 grams in a day, with some studies going up to 20 grams in a day. Loading is good if you want to gauge whether or not it works for you.
Regardless of whether you choose to load, to maintain saturation you should try to supplement creatine daily, 2 grams minimum, even on rest days. When loading and taking higher doses, expect to see a slight increase in body weight – this is caused by increased muscle hydration.
A potential drawback of creatine is that in higher doses (such as when loading) it may cause stomach cramps or diarrhea. For the stomach issues, I find that buffered creatine helps. Otherwise, taking smaller doses spread throughout the day seems to alleviate those issues as well as drinking plenty of water.
Beta-alanine is basically creatine’s understudy. While it does not necessarily increase muscle mass or power like creatine, it can greatly improve your endurance.  This is very helpful for longer sets and routines with cardio work. Being able to crank out extra reps helps ensure that you are challenging your muscles enough before you lose your steam. I should also mention that beta-alanine is a great compliment to creatine supplementation.
The only potential drawback of beta-alanine is the tingling you’ll likely get. This is known as paraesthesia. It’s harmless but can be annoying or disconcerting if you’ve never taken it before. The first dose I take for preworkout can tingle like crazy, but the second dose in the same day has little if any tingling. You tend not to notice it as much if you’re already in the middle of your workout.
Doses of beta-alanine may be up to 1.5 g in a single dose, and up to 2 doses in a day. I’ve never taken more than that, though some studies have used 5 grams in a day. Some people who do not want to experience the tingling may spread their doses more thinly and frequently throughout the day.
Unless you’re taking your own affordable and effective pre-workout, skip the overpriced crap with the fancy labels and proprietary blends and just take creatine and beta alanine. If you’re already putting in the time and effort at the gym, those are the two things you should be taking at the very least.
While they are not an absolute requirement, a purist would be hard-pressed to find whole foods that offer the same tremendous benefits.
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