Whether you’re hoping to pack on some extra muscle, compete in an upcoming marathon, or enjoy a new sport, the chances are good that you’ve at least considered taking a supplement to help.
The majority of U.S. adults take some kind of dietary supplement, and the industry for sports nutrition supplements in particular, is growing fast. Pop into any supplement aisle these days, and you’ll find a huge range of workout formulas, powders, drinks, bars, capsules, and pills. How do you know what to choose?
The answer will vary from one fitness enthusiast to the next, but there are plenty of great workout supplements worth trying. You’ll also need to consider your health and fitness goals as you weigh your options, and it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.
To get you started, we’ve put together a list of the best options for fitness supplements in 2023. Read on to find your new favorite workout booster!
Likely the best-known workout supplement, protein is a staple for fitness lovers everywhere. Though it’s possible to get all the protein you need with the right diet, some athletes find it hard to get enough to keep up with their exercise goals. Because protein powder is simple and convenient to use, it’s an easy addition to any meal or beverage.
Whether you want to support an intensive training regimen or build muscle mass, protein is a great way to boost strength and fitness. Protein can also help with weight management and recovery after you exercise.
There are several common types of protein powders to choose from. This includes whey, soy, casein, pea, and hemp protein powders, all of which will vary in quality and price. For this reason, it’s important to check the nutrition information and ingredients before you buy.
If you know much about the science of supplements, it will be no surprise that creatine is on this list. This natural supplement has a great deal of research backing to prove that it offers a wealth of benefits, from improving muscle function to increasing energy. Some studies even suggest that it may improve brain health!
Three amino acids make up creatine: arginine, methionine, and glycine. These amino acids appear naturally in our bodies, and the more of them we consume, the more our muscles store.
In other words, beginners will want to start a creatine regimen with what’s known as a “loading phase,” or a few days of taking high doses of creatine. This can allow you to reap the supplement’s benefits faster.
If all you drink is water when you’re exercising, you may be missing out on some essential nutrients. As we sweat, we deplete our bodies’ stores of electrolytes. This can be a huge problem for fitness enthusiasts who do long-lasting, high-endurance exercise.
Electrolytes like sodium and potassium help our bodies maintain the small electric current our systems need to function. Without them, your performance may suffer. You may notice muscle cramping, heat stress, dehydration, and other common complaints.
Though you can get electrolytes from food, electrolyte drinks and powders make it easy to stay hydrated for longer.
You may already be familiar with SARMs if you hang out in bodybuilding forums or engage in sports that require a high muscle mass.
SARMs stands for “Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators.” When it comes to muscle growth and boosting strength, SARMs are a popular alternative to steroids. This means fitness enthusiasts get to avoid the frustrating side effects of frequent steroid use.
As their name suggests, SARMs work by binding to our androgen receptors. This prompts our bodies to create new muscle tissue, leading to rapid muscle gains.
Just as you should do your own research on any supplement on this list, however, it’s important to read the fine print when you buy SARMs online. Different SARMs bind to different androgen receptors and offer different results and side effects. Do your homework to be sure you know what to expect.
Another popular acronym you’ll hear around the gym, BCAAs are a great way to speed up your workout results. BCAA stands for “branch chain amino acid.”
Like creatine, BCAAs are made of three essential amino acids: leucine, valine, and isoleucine. The branched structure of these amino acids is what gives BCAAs their name.
Along with other essential amino acids, BCAAs are the building blocks of your muscles. However, your body doesn’t produce them on its own, which is why it’s crucial to supplement your stores if you’re launching a fitness routine.
BCAAs can reduce muscle soreness, minimize fatigue after a workout, and enhance muscle growth. Some studies even suggest that they can help you lose fat faster, making them a great option if your fitness goals include weight loss.
Another essential amino acid, glutamine, is easy to get in a protein-packed diet. This substance also plays a role in our immune and intestinal health.
Unlike some of the other amino acids on this list, few studies have found glutamine to have an effect on athletic performance or muscle mass.
However, glutamine can help improve your fitness after strenuous exercise. Because it can help decrease muscle soreness and enhance your recovery, glutamine can be a helpful post-workout supplement.
While many of the other options on this list revolve around muscle strength and endurance, caffeine’s benefits take place in the mind. As any athlete knows, mental alertness, focus, and energy can be a huge part of any sport or workout routine.
Caffeine provides a quick boost when you need it most, which is why many fitness enthusiasts use it before a workout. It can also increase your stamina and lower your perceived exertion, allowing you to go farther faster.
However, it’s important to be aware of the side effects of caffeine. Experts agree that around 300mg of caffeine per day is safe for most adults, and that number should also include the amount of caffeine in any tea, coffee, or other beverages you drink.
This sulfur-rich amino acid is abundant throughout the body. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, researchers have studied it for use in fighting conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Taurine is also a great workout supplement to consider if you’re hoping to improve your fitness. This supplement offers a
wealth of benefits, from improving your recovery time to reducing muscle damage. Some studies even suggest that it can help prompt your body to burn more fat during your exercise routine.
These findings, however, are not conclusive. One literature review suggested that more research is necessary to understand the effects of this supplement.
Unlike the amino acids above, beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. This means that your body doesn’t use it to create protein.
What makes beta-alanine so important is its role in the creation of carsonine. Carsonine is a substance that reduces the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles. This, in turn, reduces muscle fatigue.
With less muscle fatigue, many athletes find it easier to continue their workouts for longer. The increased time to fatigue is especially helpful for shorter exercises like sprints, resistance training, or HIIT workouts.
Glucosamine is a common supplement for people with osteoarthritis as well as athletes with sore joints. An amino sugar, glucosamine is an important component of connective tissues like cartilage. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Glucosamine supplements can be great for improving joint health and range of motion. They can also help to reduce inflammation in and around the joints.
Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methylbutyrate (HMB)
Your body makes HMB when it breaks down leucine, one of the three BCAAs mentioned above. However, this only produces small amounts of HMB at a time, which is why many athletes choose to supplement their HMB.
Though results are mixed, some studies suggest that higher levels of HMB have a few helpful benefits for fitness enthusiasts. More HMB may preserve muscle mass and reduce muscle breakdown. These benefits may be greater in older athletes.
Though many of the supplements we’ve already mentioned are geared toward helping you before or after a workout, there are a few essential vitamins and minerals worth taking as well.
One area to focus on is the spectrum of B vitamins. B vitamins play a huge role in converting the food we eat into energy, breaking down protein and fat, and processing carbohydrates.
B vitamins are also crucial in the production of ATP, a substance that helps fuel muscle contractions. If you work out, B vitamins can help support your muscles by rebuilding your ATP stores as you deplete them.
The best B-complex vitamins to focus on for a workout include thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. However, a pill or supplement that offers the full spectrum of B vitamins can help support your overall body health if you often demand high performance as you exercise.
This essential nutrient appears throughout your muscles and bones, and it’s vital to your overall health. Research links getting enough magnesium with better sleep, an improved mood, and much more.
However, when it comes to your workouts, magnesium is just as crucial. Magnesium plays a big role in muscle recovery. Because it blocks our calcium uptake, which contributes to muscle soreness, magnesium can help your muscles relax after exercise.
This, in turn, can mean fewer frustrating cramps and less pain after a strenuous workout. If you experience these side effects after a workout, magnesium should be the first supplement you look into: experts suggest that 48% of Americans get less magnesium in their diet than they should.
You may be aware that you should be getting more vitamin D, but did you know that a deficiency can impact your workouts? Vitamin D plays a huge role in your heart health, which is crucial for your fitness.
It can also increase your cardiorespiratory fitness. This is a measurement of how much oxygen you need as you exercise. Better cardiorespiratory fitness means you can work harder for longer.
You can often find vitamin D as a fat-soluble pill. Experts estimate that the average adult needs somewhere between 2,000 IU and 4,000 IU of vitamin D each day.
Fish oil is another supplement that can help boost your heart health, but it’s also a good way to improve your overall fitness routine.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, fish oil supplements offer some great benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Fish oil may reduce muscle soreness during and after a workout, which can help you do more during each session. For aging athletes, fish oil may help preserve existing muscle.
Last, but not least, there’s “pre-workout,” which is more than just a time frame for taking a supplement!
Pre-workout is a mixture of two or more different supplements on this list. Often, it will come with a few key ingredients, like caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAAs, and creatine. It’s also common for pre-workout to include additional ingredients like beetroot or pomegranate extracts.
As the name suggests, pre-workout is meant to be taken before you hit the gym. Caffeine and other stimulants give you the energy boost you need to perform, and the other ingredients offer extra endurance so you can increase your reps.
The Best Options for Any Fitness Enthusiast
No matter what kind of fitness enthusiast you are, the supplements on this list can help boost your performance. From powders that enhance your muscle to shakes that offer energy to tablets to improve your recovery, be sure to consider the products above! With the right supplement on your side, who knows how far you’ll go?
Ready for more great tips to help you maximize your fitness? Be sure to take a look through our other posts for other guides like this one.