4 Supplement Must-Haves On A Budget
Discover which supplements will help maximize your gains without shrinking your wallet.
You’re a student of bodybuilding, which means you know the best multijoint lifts, how many chicken breasts you should eat each day, and which supplements support muscle gains and enhance your performance in the gym.
But what if you’re on a budget? What are the best ways to maximize your gains while minimizing the hit to your wallet? Here are my picks for the most effective supplements every bodybuilder should have in their stack.
Not only can creatine help you increase muscle strength and size, it can also help you recover between sets faster. This allows you to train longer and with more intensity, ultimately leading to greater gains.1-3 Hundreds of studies support the benefits of this supplement.
Your body produces a small supply of creatine. However, if you want to maximize stores and reap the full benefits of creatine, you’ll either have to eat 2-3 pounds of meat a day or take a supplement. With red meat costing $4.00 per pound in many places, you’ll definitely save money by choosing the latter.
NOT ONLY CAN CREATINE HELP YOU INCREASE MUSCLE STRENGTH AND SIZE, IT CAN ALSO HELP YOU RECOVER BETWEEN SETS FASTER.
There are two common methods for maximizing creatine stores in your body. One way is to do a short-term creatine load, where you ingest 20 grams of creatine a day for 5-7 days. This is followed by a low-dose maintenance phase of 3-5 grams per day. This overconsumption helps to flood the muscle with creatine and has been shown to increase creatine pools in the muscle faster.
If you’re not in any sort of rush to maximize creatine stores, you can opt for a continuous low-dose protocol, consuming 5 grams of creatine per day. Although it’ll take around four weeks to maximize creatine stores, you’re less likely to experience any weight gain with a low-dose protocol.
Recommended dose: 20 grams for 5-7 days followed by 3-5 grams for maintenance
2 WHEY PROTEIN
The numerous benefits of protein include increases in muscular strength and size, decreases in body fat, and a faster recovery time. This makes it a staple in any bodybuilder’s diet.
Muscle protein synthesis is an important process for increasing muscle size and strength. Resistance training alone can increase rates of protein synthesis, but it also increases rates of protein breakdown. For muscle growth to occur, you need to tip the scale in favor of protein synthesis while trying to minimize breakdown.
RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT THE CONSUMPTION OF PROTEIN POST-WORKOUT CAN SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASE MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS.
Research has shown that the consumption of protein post-workout can substantially increase muscle protein synthesis. Over time, this has been shown to lead to bigger gains in muscle size and strength.
STRETCH YOUR SUPPLEMENT DOLLAR
Bulk up: Find a supplement you like, and buy the largest container you can. Although it costs more money up front, the cost per serving will be less.
Have yourself a cocktail: Many pre-workouts on the market will have a combination of these supplements, making it easier to get them all with just a single scoop. Some contain additional ingredients, such as citrulline malate and beta-alanine, that can help give you an extra edge in the gym. Just make sure to check the label to make sure they contain the right ingredients in the right doses.
If you had to choose only one type of protein to spend your hard-earned dollars on, I would recommend whey. Whey protein is a fast-digesting protein that enters the bloodstream rapidly. This allows it to get to your muscles faster and create a bigger spike in protein synthesis compared to sources such as soy or casein.
Although protein powders will cost you about 30 cents more per serving than chicken or eggs, the portability, convenience, and lack of prep work make whey protein a must-have in any supplement stack.
You want to make that tub of protein last as long as possible. A study looking at various dosages (0, 5, 10, 20, 40 grams) found that 20 grams was enough to fully stimulate protein synthesis after resistance training.
So dial back your post-workout shake to one scoop and make that protein last without sacrificing gains.
Timing: Immediately after working out
3 BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAS)
Whey protein is great for building muscle, but if you’re not taking BCAAs, you could be leaving gains on the table. BCAAs are composed of three essential amino acids that make up almost one-third of your skeletal muscle protein, and they have been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and aid in recovery.
BCAAS ARE COMPOSED OF THREE ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS THAT MAKE UP ALMOST ONE-THIRD OF YOUR SKELETAL MUSCLE PROTEIN, AND THEY HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO STIMULATE MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS AND AID IN RECOVERY.
Taken before exercise, BCAAs can reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and speed up the recovery process.8 Taken during your workouts, BCAAs can decrease protein breakdown, help spare muscle glycogen and reduce fatigue.9,10 These benefits make BCAAs essential to your next workout, especially if you train in a fasted state.
Recommended dose: 5-10 grams
Timing: Before or during your workout
4 OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most important nutrients for your body. And because they are considered “essential”—meaning your body can’t make its own supply—supplementing with these fatty acids is, well, essential!
Fish oils high in EPA and DHA may help to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness brought on by strenuous exercise.11 Studies have also shown less pain and swelling, and a greater range of motion following intense exercise.12 Not to mention omega-3s are also critical for building and maintaining muscles, helping you to recover faster and train harder.
FISH OILS HIGH IN EPA AND DHA MAY HELP TO REDUCE POST-EXERCISE MUSCLE SORENESS BROUGHT ON BY STRENUOUS EXERCISE.
For most people, trying to consume enough fish to meet the recommended daily intake of omega-3s can be difficult to accomplish, plus it can get a bit pricey. Due to its relatively low cost—not to mention less fishy smell—supplementing with a fish oil is a practical option for most people.
Timing: With meals