Even for those “in the know,” walking into a supplement shop and trying to take in everything can be quite the daunting task, indeed. Shelves from floor to ceiling filled with bottles and cans of compounds that all promise to make you the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, that is never the case, but there are some of them that will certainly put you on the right road to being the best Arnold that you can be, if not the second coming of the real one.

Before you bang you head on the nearest wall, most of these supplements are personal preference and what you are looking to do in the gym. Are you looking to lose weight or put some on? Bulk or cut up? Regardless of your goals, there are a few staples of the supplement world that you should use at all times.

Protein powder, pre-workout and BCAAs are the ‘big three,’ if you will, but there are very useful supplements that fit outside of this trio. But always keep this in mind: these products are supposed to supplement your regular diet, hence the name. They are not supposed to be used in place of nutritious food, but rather in conjunction with them. If you try to take a short cut by eating less food, then using supplements will be counterproductive.

Let’s take a look at a number of different types of supplements and the plusses and minuses of each.


Protein builds muscle and taking in more - especially in between meals – is a smart move for everyone. What you should be buying depends on when you are looking to drink your protein shakes. Whey is the best type for during the day but casein is a slower digesting type and works great for that before bed shake.


Getting a little extra jolt of energy at the gym is always a good thing, especially if you are a morning gym goer. Your stamina will also be improved, as well as building up more perspiration to lose fat. But just be careful about some pre-workouts, as you can get the jitters from it and feel like crap after the crash. The subtler ones better serve you all around.


The best post workout you can use is real food, but there are circumstances when you don’t have that option. So a good post workout shake containing protein and good (complex) carbs must be used as a replacement. An important aspect of this is the carbs, as they help fill up the muscles after a good workout and are used for recovery and recuperation.

4 – BCAAs

Branched Chain Amino Acids are called the building blocks of muscle and you should make sure to take in enough of them. They used to be much more popular a generation ago but because they are included in whey protein, many people chose to get their fill that way. As more research came to light, though, it became known that BCAAs in their free form were more effective than the peptide-bound version in whey.


This supplement blew up when it came on the scene and people were touting it as a steroid replacement. Yes, creatine does work and has a place in your gym bag, but comparing it to gear is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both fruit and that’s where the comparisons end. Creatine is a substance that’s produced by the body naturally, but using it as a dietary supplement increases muscle cell volume and glycogen storage.


There are some people whose bodies reject thermogenics and make you feel terrible, with enhanced jitters, cold sweats and an annoying tingly feeling. So it’s always a good idea to take as little a dosage as possible the first few times using one. Once you find the right formula, they can help burn more fat. But you still have to diet and do a good amount of cardio. Too many people make the mistake of believing that fat burners will make up for sloppiness or laziness in those two important categories.

A great weight loss supplement!


Even with a balanced diet, supplementing more ‘good’ fat is a smart idea. Doing so with some fish oil pills is the easiest and most common way.


These are the best and most convenient way to add some more protein into your diet and the way that they are made nowadays, they taste fantastic, too. But be sure to check the label and make sure that there’s not too much sugar in them for that taste.


While not your quintessential bodybuilding supplement, the old trusty ‘one-a-day’ vitamin is a good back-up in case you do not have a chance to get enough food that particular day to cover all the bases. And if you do, then a little extra is always good, too.


These are definitely not for beginners and in certain cases can be nearly as potent as steroids. The main difference is that they are converted to testosterone in the body and not a true form of the hormone as is.


The same as above regarding no beginners and even more so with peptides. These are in the family of growth hormone instead of testosterone and some reviews of them are as good as the real thing.

By Joe Pietaro for

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