Supplementing your regular diet when training with weights is a personal choice but, after many years of training, I have determined that whey protein, glutamine, creatine and a solid multivitamin are the bare essentials to maximize your efforts in the gym. Personally I also utilize ZMA at night and find it to be fantastic in assisting recovery and growth.
The best whey protein must be made of isolate rather than concentrate because isolate is the most pure form of protein so you maximize the quality of protein per scoop. I also look for a low carb protein because I prefer to eat low carb when at all possible so if my protein supplement is high in carbohydrates it defeats the purpose. When I consume carbs I much prefer then to be in the traditional form of wheat bread, rice, or pasta. A whey protein powder is necessary because when aiming to maintain lean muscle I strive for a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle, but if my goal is to gain muscle my target is close to the 1.5 gram per pound range. Consuming that much protein solely from lean sources such as fish, chicken, turkey and beef would become tiresome and boring, so getting 25-50 grams in a protein shake is very easy and convenient.
Aside for mixing protein powder in half milk-half water for a post workout shake, I will also use it in my pre-workout shake with a banana and perhaps a scoop of peanut butter mixed in. Another tasty treat is mixing a scoop of chocolate protein powder with egg whites and a little cream, whipped up and stored in the fridge overnight it makes for a great high-protein low-fat mousse.
Creatine monohydrate has been proven to be the best form of creatine in terms of the results it provides and the safety of its use. I prefer powder form of creatine mixed with protein in my shakes and take creatine because it has been proven to assist in our ability to perform intense exercise and build lean mass during training. We must remember that creatine is natural, already found in your body and used to produce energy. So it is already there, and thus it is safe. It would take a highly technical explanation into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) use and production to explain exactly how creatine works to stimulate more muscle fibers when training with intensity. But in summation the end results of adding creatine to your supplements regime is that you will have more energy to lift more and therefore stimulate more growth, it may also assist in your muscle recovery, and can simply make you look bigger as you cells become fuller.
The most accepted and trusted manner of using creatine is to overload your cells with creatine using a dose of 20 grams per day for 5 days and then cutting back to 5 grams daily afterwards.
L-Glutamine is necessary for people who workout and perform high-intensity exercises which can deplete glutamine levels. Glutamine is found in the skeletal muscles, is one of the most abundant amino acids and is vital for muscle recovery. When working out with intensity and causing physical stress your body may require more glutamine than it is able to produce. Supplementing with glutamine maintains a positive nitrogen balance, which is an anabolic state, and assists in cell growth.
ZMA is a blend of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6. Studies have shown that most individuals are already deficient in both zinc and magnesium while exercise depletes these minerals further. Being deficient in these has a negative effect on muscle growth, while supplementing with ZMA has shown to increase testosterone and IGF-1 levels. Higher testosterone levels translate directly to strength increase and lean muscle gains. Calcium blocks ZMA absorption so no calcium with your ZMA and take it before bed, preferably on an empty stomach (approximately 2 hours after eating). It has also been shown to promote deep sleep (REM) which is a necessity for muscle recovery and growth hormone excretion.
Any solid multivitamin will do but I prefer Centrum or GNC. From prevention of heart disease, to antioxidants, and all the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, a multivitamin will ensure your body has everything it needs to perform, recover and grow. One can assume that we do not get all the essential vitamins and minerals from our diet so supplementing with a multivitamin is a way to promote better health and provides insurance against a less than perfect diet.
These are the supplements I take with regularity and the reasons behind why I use them and what they can do for you. Fish Oil can be added to the list above and many people will also benefit from Chromium Picolinate as it is highly recommended for its ability to assist in carbohydrate metabolism and promote healthy blood sugar levels.