All About Gym Supplements: A Guide to What Works

Supplements are a tricky subject. Many people ask the question; why would you take a powder instead of eating whole-foods? 

There are so many reasons why you would take a supplement – especially if you are bodybuilding or just trying to put on a little muscle and lose weight. 

You see, fitness comes down to two main ideas – controlling your caloric consumption (your nutrition) and exercising regularly (working out). The unfortunate reality of modern diets – as they relate to fitness and performance is that you may not be getting everything you need simply by eating. 

Increasing muscle and losing weight requires nutrients in every respect – from amino acids to stimulants; they all work to promote your performance and amplify your results. 

Yes, of course, a well balanced diet will take you pretty far, but the benefit of supplements is exactly that – they are supplemental. Supplements assist you to achieve faster and stronger results – and were going to show you how. 

This guide is built to walk you through all of the common supplements that are beneficial for weight loss, strength increase, decreased recovery time and more. 

Lets begin. 


Whats Protein All About? Benefits, Timing and Usage

Protein is perhaps one of the most common and sought after supplements in health and fitness. 

What is protein and what exactly does it  do?

Protein is one of the three main macronutrients that provides the bulk of the calories in your diet. You will find this nutrient primarily in foods like beans, nuts, meats and fish. As a supplement it comes in a variety of forms and is used primarily to assist in recovery of muscle tissue after exercise.

The main purpose of protein supplementation is to stimulate a process known as muscle protein synthesis – this is the precursor to recovery. Depending on the amino acid count on the protein, digestion rate and many other factors the protein may act quickly, or slowly over time to recovery muscular tissue.  

Proteins (especially those from milk) come in three main forms – concentrates, isolates and hydrolysates. Although there are many benefits to each form, the most popular is isolates because it renders the best amino acid spectrum at the most effective pricing. 

There are many different forms of protein – let’s break down some of the most common. 


Pea Protein

Pea protein is sourced from yellow split peas – as they are very high in protein and have a high bioavailability (high metabolic yield of protein). Pea protein works as many other supplemented proteins through increasing and stimulating a process known as muscle protein synthesis. 

Popular belief would say that vegetable proteins, such as pea proteins are not as effective as whey-based. Research shows that vegetable pea proteins are just as effective as whey-based dietary proteins at increasing lean muscle tissue and overall strength. 

Supplement Timing

Pea protein has a very low caloric value and a fast thermogenic rate (digested quickly) and as such can be used as an anytime protein or a post-workout blend. 


Rice Protein

Rice is one of those foods that have shaped civilization for milenia. Not only is it a great source of complex carbohydrates, but the proteins found in rice have some of the highest bioavailability for humans. 

To acquire rice protein you can treat the rice with enzymes that will force the protein to separate from the carbohydrates – you then isolate the proteins and, viola – you have rice protein.  

In an 8-week study, researchers wanted to observe if rice protein would stack up against its whey counterpart. Results showed very little difference between strength and muscle tissue size, although some results indicated that rice protein may have been slightly more effective at reducing muscle soreness. 

Supplement Timing

Rice proteins, along with many other proteins are best supplement post workout – although immering research is showing that supplementing your protein before bed can actually stimulate greater responses in muscle recovery. 


Whey Protein

Globally known as the bread and butter of post workout nutrition – whey protein has become ever popular. Whey is a byproduct of the milk production sequence, a left-over ingredient that has a high yield of protein and a taste many people are familiar with. 

Whey protein has some of the highest counts of their respective amino acids – especially leucine (the most powerful amino acid available). 

Supplement Timing

Whey protein is quite versatile. Depending on the form it comes in (concentrate, isolate, hydrolysate) it will have a faster or slower metabolic rate. Generally, the faster the rate, the better – this means you can take it directly following a workout and have greater states of protein synthesis for recovery.


Micellar Casein

A relatively new addition to the world of bodybuilding, casein protein is one that can be considered a useful tool for recovery. Casein protein is from the family of milk products, and is also a by-product of the milk production process. 

Casein protein is marketed as an evening, or overnight protein due to its very slow thermic effect. Casein proteins have a great amino acid spectrum and due to their slow digestion rate will offer a superior anti-catabolic effect – meaning you will not fall into muscle wasting. 

Supplement Timing

Due to its slower metabolic and thermic rates, casein protein may not be the most effective post workout, rather casein protein can be consumed as either a morning protein or an evening protein. The slow digestion will help you to feel more full in the morning which may assist in weight control and the evening intake will help to maintain high blood amino-acid levels during sleep. 


Soy Protein

Perhaps the most misunderstood nutrient in the fitness industry. At one point, soy protein was the king of all proteins, and now, many people fear soy due to some studies showing results of gynecomastia (enlarged male breast tissue). 

Soy protein is derived from the process of making soy, the proteins are then isolated and dried into the form you see bottled at the supermarket. Without getting into the deep details of soy protein, they have a great amino acid spectrum, are considered complete proteins, and studies have not shown conclusive evidence to say soy consumption directly leads to gynecomastia. 

With the complete protein and being one of the only known proteins that have been shown to lower cholesterol, soy protein can be considered a healthy alternative to many animal-based protein sources. 

Supplement Timing

Treat soy protein like any other fast metabolising protein supplement. You can use soy proteins as a morning snack to reduce appetite and cravings, post workout to increase muscle protein synthesis or as an evening protein to increase blood amino acid levels while you sleep.


Amino Acids, Fancy Term or Functional Tool?

As we know, all proteins will contain a wide spectrum of amino acids, so why would you supplement a specific amino acid? 

Would you not already be getting plenty of this amino acids through your diet or protein supplementation?

The important thing to note with amino acids is that supplementation is completely specific to the actual goal of an individual. Whereas Protein supplementation covers a wide range of goals, generally weight loss or gains in muscle mass, each amino acid will serve a specific purpose, and can be taken in higher amounts to accelerate that specific goal. 

Understanding that in many ways, amino acid supplementation is goal-driven, let’s take a look at some of the most common and effective amino acids you can take. 


L-Glutamine, Glutamic Acid

The most abundant amino acid in the body. Glutamine is found in many everyday foods, especially those that are protein rich, although many vegetables – especially dark, leafy greens will contain high amounts of glutamine as well. 

Glutamine is mainly used to starve off muscle wasting – a process that breaks down muscle tissue when your body is in a caloric deficit (generally in weight loss goals). For this reason glutamine is a great supplement for endurance athletes and those that are training for weight loss and are in a caloric deficit for much of their fitness program. 

Glutamine has also been shown to promote immune function – and has been used as a care mechanism for infant hospitalized children for years. In addition to its immune benefits, many studies have shown its importance in signalling muscle protein synthesis and reducing the soreness of muscle after exercise. 

Supplement Timing

As with many other amino acids, glutamine can be taken anytime, although most studies have looked at the benefits of post-workout supplementation and yielded very beneficial results. For this reason you should look to post-workout supplementation for optimal results in reducing muscle soreness and increasing performance. 



One of the most popular ingredients for pre-workout nutrition, L-arginine has a very specific role to play in vasodilation – that is, the increase in arterial size, allowing for easier transfer of blood, containing important nutrients for working muscle. 

Not only will arginine supplementation help to transport more oxygenated blood to working muscle, but blood amino acids will be able to work faster to recover muscle as you are training. For this reason L-arginine is a great pre-workout supplement. 

More important than the transport of nutrients, l-arginine has also been shown to assist in an increase in nitric oxide – which can be very beneficial for total muscle metabolism. 

Supplement Timing

Although l-arginine has been shown to have numerous benefits, the most effective time to supplement will be approximately 30-45 min before a workout. Supplementing l-arginine will assist in greater blood flow and increased nitric oxide. 

NOTE: You should consider lowering you caffeine consumption when stacking with l-arginine. 



Perhaps the king of all amino acids when it comes to its direct influence on performance after just one supplementation. Beta-alanine is an amino acid found in everyday foods, especially soy and fish. 

Alanine works in a very unique way to buffer lactic acid. If you’ve ever been training at very high intensities and start to feel your muscles weaken to the point where they have little to no energy left – this is lactic acid pooling in the muscle. It stops you from training, and limits your performance. 

Research shows that Beta-Alanine has the unique trait of buffering this process enabling you to train harder, for longer without lactic acid pooling in the muscle.  

Alanine is one of the most potent and powerful supplements you can take to enable harder training sessions without feeling the effects of fatigue and the setbacks of lactic acid production. 

Supplement Timing

For best results beta-alanine should be supplemented 30-45 min prior to exercise. Most research will show that beta-alanine can have positive impacts on your exercise and performance in just one training session. 



One of the most effective amino acids for weight loss and fat loss. Carnitine is a control amino acid that helps to regulate your body’s internal thermic states and in turn, your rate of ketosis. 

Supplementing l-carnitine has been shown to be a very effective tool for regulating weight loss and ensuring the greatest states of fat oxidation (ketosis) – enabling you to train harder and lose more weight. 

Due to its benefits of fat oxidation, l-carnitine can also be a very beneficial supplement for runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes as it will enable your body to draw from fat as fuel at a much greater rate than other amino acids. 

Supplement Timing

L-carnitine supplementation can be used at a variety of times throughout the day. Since it is a non-stimulant supplement that can be effective for fat loss you can take this at many times and experience benefits. With that in mind, most research has looked at supplement supplementation before or during exercise to limit muscle soreness and increased fat oxidation. 


Branched Chain Amino Acids

Commonly known as BCAAs, branched chain amino acids are the building blocks of protein. We discussed earlier how all proteins will contain a wide variety of amino acids, yet, behind glutamine, three amino acids stand above the rest in availability in foods. These are L-Leucine, L-Valine, and L-Isoleucine. Together they make up branched chain amino acids. 

Although amino acids will carry many benefits, the true purpose of amino acid supplementation is to enable faster muscle protein synthesis. The inclusion of L-leucine especially has an instrumental role to play in stimulating muscle protein synthesis and for this reason is a very anabolic supplement. Although L-valine and L-isoleucine may not be as potent they are very important regulatory supplements. 

The greatest benefit to BCAA supplementation is that they have been shown to stimulate myofibrillar hypertrophy – that is,  the direct increase in muscle cell size (with little to no caloric value). If you’re into bodybuilding or powerlifting this is huge. 

Supplement Timing

BCAA timing is important and can be used virtually anytime to promote greater states of anabolic potential and increase in muscle size. For best results you should supplement in the morning (when blood amino acid levels are at a low) or late in your workout. 



Creatine is not an amino acid – yet it could not be left off this guide. When it comes to pure performance for the price nothing beats creatine. 

Popular media would have you believe that creatine is an unnatural compound that can lead to weight gain. In reality, creatine is found in many everyday foods, supplementation is completely safe and is perhaps one of the most effective tools for achieving faster recovery and increasing your strength. 

Creatine works by enabling for greater ATP resynthesis (the mechanism for muscle contraction), thereby allowing you to train harder with less recovery time between sets or between workouts. 

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements in the fitness industry and has a host of benefits that include greater strength, faster recover and less fatigue post-exercise. Creatine has even been studied for the benefits of helping anemic patients have more energy. 

Supplement Timing

Creatine is a wonder supplement – it really can be taken at anytime with massive benefits to overall performance. You can use creatine as a morning supplement,combined with carbohydrates to increase blood creatinine levels, pre-workout to increase cell hydration, post workout to decrease recovery time or in the evening to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis with your protein. 


Burners and Boosters – Best Tools For Weight Loss

The world of weight loss is a tricky one. With a wealth of information online regarding fat burners and weight loss pills it can really be difficult to sort through the media and find what products really work to influence weight loss and metabolic strength. 

What do we mean by metabolic strength? 

Your metabolism is the greatest ally when it comes to weight loss. In order for you to truly lose weight over time you must integrate the idea of an increased metabolic strength. This can be done through supplements that have been clinically shown to increase both metabolic function and the thermic effect of food. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best supplements to help boost your metabolism and burn more fat. 


Betaine Anhydrous

One of the most unique ingredients in this guide. Betaine is actually a amino acid (choline) derived predominantly from a variety of root vegetables, especially sugar beets. 

This amino acid has grabbed the attention of many individuals in strength circles as being a very potent cell hydrator (similar to creatine), stimulant and strength accelerator. Betaine has not only been shown to increase performance in the weight room, but it also has some pretty significant effects on weight loss and increases in lean body tissue in general. 

8-week trials of betaine supplementation have shown increases in every respect of body composition, yet only moderate increases in actual strength output. For this reason, betaine is a popular aid for pre-workout nutrition. 

Supplement Timing

Due to betanines benefits of increasing lean body tissue and overall performance this is best taken prior to a workout. For best results you can take this with a fruit-juice concentrate to accelerate the metabolic rate. 


Caffeine – Forms and Function

The age old supplement for raw performance increases and improvements in body composition. What you may not have known is that caffeine is actually a plant insecticide. 

Plants create caffeine in an effort to ward off bugs from eating and killing the plant. 

Researchers say this could be one of the reason why you experience a stimulatory effect from consuming caffeine – especially in high doses (above 200mg). 

Caffeine is one of the most studied supplements in the strength and weight loss industry. In humans, it works to accelerate metabolism and can even help your body to digest and break down food at a greater rate. Caffeine can also be used as a very effective diuretic – dehydrating the body in the case of stage competition preparation. 

Caffeine comes in many forms. From traditional coffee, to green tea leaves, caffeine is still the king of stimulants. Modern science has lead to advancements in isolating the specific structures that lead to traditional caffeine stimulation – in the form of caffeine anhydrous. 

Research has shown that caffeine is a very effective tool for increasing strength and overall performance by stimulating greater muscular contractions and providing a deeper mental clarity during a training session. 

Supplement Timing

Caffeine consumption is one that should not be taken lightly. We must not forget that caffeine is, in many respects a drug – and one that can lead to dependency. Over Consumption can lead to fatigue, dehydration, anxiety and even hallucinations. 
Caffeine is best supplemented as a pre-workout amplifier to improve raw strength and improve mental clarity. Do not exceed 7 mg/kg of bodyweight. 


Natural Herbs – Health Benefits and Usage

Before the age of modern supplements herbs ruled performance. Modern medicine has come a long way, yet there is still a long way to come integrating all the knowledge early civilizations have to offer when it comes to health and vitality through natural herbs and remedies. 

Here are some of the most effective herbs – now supplements that can be used for health and vitality. 



A plant native to the eastern asian continent, schizandra has been used for milenia to help treat and cure numerous diseases – especially those related to physical performance when the environment is in an extreme condition. 

For instance, schizandra has been used to increase oxygen carrying capacity at very cold temperatures, which may be an effective tool for endurance athletes training for ultra distances. 

Emerging research is showing that schizandra supplementation can even help to treat asthma, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits. For these reasons schizandra can be an effective tool in weight loss and adaptogen balancing. 

Supplement Timing

Schizandra is a supplement that can be used to increase performance, decrease inflammation and even assist in greater health due to its antioxidant capacity. Schizandra can be used as a very effective post-workout tool to help decrease muscle soreness or can be used pre-workout to allow for greater performance. 



This herb carries its roots from India and has been used as a ergogenic aid and general health. Modern research has shown that ashwagandha can actually be used as a very effective stress-reducing agent – especially exercise induced metabolic stress. 

For this reason, studies have shown benefits to overall endurance performance, treatment of muscle soreness, arthritis and has even been used as and effect aphrodisiac. 

From a strength and exercise perspective, ashwagandha can be used very effectively to allow for greater performance during training while decreasing inflammation and stress on joints. 

Supplement Timing

Ashwagandha would be best utilized as a post-workout aid in decreasing inflammation and stress, although it can also be implemented prior to a workout to decrease the metabolic stress from exercise.



Among one of the most popular herbal remedies, ginseng root has become ever popular for its many benefits for overall health and powerful immunity boosting capacity. 

Ginseng is now being studied as an anti-cancer drug in the prevention of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. From the perspective of health and performance much of its benefits comes from what appears to be a slight blood thinning capability. This allows your body to better transport nutrients through the blood, allowing for a greater pump during a workout, increased focus and has even been included in male virility medications. 

Above all, ginseng shows great promise as a strong immunity boosting supplement that can assist in strengthening the immune system beyond traditional medicine. 

Supplement Timing

From the perspective of health and performance, ginseng would be best supplemented as a pre-workout ingredient to help assist other supplements in vasodilation and stimulation. In addition to pre-workout nutrition, ginseng can also be an effective evening supplement for recovery with your protein intake. 


Camu Camu

Inflammation is one of the most undertreated mechanisms in our modern medicine program. Internal inflammation in the organs and other soft tissue can lead to accelerated aging and progressive diseases such as heart disease and even cancer. 

Camu Camu works as a potent antioxidant that has the unique ability to limit inflammation and even chronic pain. Camu camu is tried and tested as an effective supplement for inflammatory based conditions. 

Supplement Timing

As you train, your muscles become swollen, and in some cases inflamed. Camu camu could be an effective tool at reducing the oxidative stress from exercise and the inflammation on muscle tissue. For this reason, camu camu should be taken as a intra-workout or post workout supplement. 


Zinc (Mineral)

Globally recognized as the largest malnutrition issue, zinc deficiency can cause some major complication – especially in the realm of strength and overall performance. 

Zinc is a natural mineral compound found in everyday products like animal foods, nuts and beans. Zinc plays a primary role in cellular division and cell growth. For this reason, many zinc  malnutrition cases will report anemia and even dwarfism (in extreme cases). 

Ensuring adequate levels of zinc in the body is completely essential to your success in the gym. Moderate zinc levels have been acquainted directly to testosterone production – meaning if zinc is low, testosterone could also be low. 

Achieving adequate levels of zinc can be done through diet and supplementation, although for many people, especially vegetarian populations, supplementation is prefered. 

Supplement Timing

Zinc is best utilized as an evening supplement, allowing for slow and controlled metabolism over the course of the night. 


Tribulus Terrestris

Perhaps one of the most common supplements in the world of testosterone production. Tribulus  has been used for millennia as an enhancer of male virility. 

It should be noted that tribulus is not a testosterone amplifier in any sense. Research shows that tribulus may assist in sexual desire in trials where males are not sexual aroused – especially in the aging population. 

With that in mind, tribulus has been touted as a very effective supplement for assisting in erectile dysfunction by improving the nitric oxide response of the corpus cavernosum. 

Supplement Timing

The best time to take any product with the aim to improve sexual performance is in the evening. Especially during REM cycles, male testosterone is at a peak, supplementing with a nitric oxide booster may assist in optimal improvements in strength and conditioning through this time. 



Stress, mental fatigue, physical fatigue – it controls all aspects of our life if gone untreated. Rhodiola is a plant grown at very high altitudes which has shown great promise treating stress – both in the physical and mental sense. 

Due to its adaptogenic properties, it has been studied for its performance-enhancing capabilities in healthy populations and its therapeutic properties in a number of clinical populations. 

Although performance tests yield results that are not conclusive, some studies have shown the benefits of rhodiola on mental health and anti-stress – even so much as antidepressant medication. 

Rhodiola should be a strong consideration supplement in your nutrition plan. Understanding many studies have tested for accurate doses of up to 1500 mg, and seen little to no symptoms the supplement is quite safe to try. 

Supplement Timing

As an anti stress supplement, rhodiola would be best taken as a post-workout ingredient or an intra-workout tool to reduce the effects of resistance induced muscular stress. 


Conclusion – Why Supplement?

There are a world of supplements available at your local supermarket and the online marketplace is ever expanding into new and unique supplements that promise returns in weight loss and strength increase. 

Supplementing with any ingredient should never be taken lightly. Many supplements do not yield conclusive evidence to show their effectiveness or safety. The products outlined above have went through many randomized, and controlled trials to determine both safety and effectiveness. 

Supplements are not a quick fix to your health and fitness program. Nothing is a quick fix. Instead, supplements provide you the opportunity to target specific areas of your health and fitness and push further in each workout. 

In a world surrounding you in marketing on products that promise fast weight loss and massive increases in strength, the best way to improve your health will always come from a whole-food approach with an emphasis on supplements proven to work through peer-reviewed study.

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