Which supplements do you actually need for your health and fitness goals?

best supplements

With thousands of supplements on the market, it’s hard to know which are best suited to your needs. From powders and pills to pre-workouts and protein bars, the choice can be overwhelming. We’re here to help. Here are some suggestions to support your specific health and fitness goals.

Muscle hypertrophy

Muscle growth, or hypertrophy, is contingent on a number of factors, two of the main ones being training and nutrition. Once resistance training induces a hypertrophic response (breaks muscles down), the next step is to provide the muscles with protein. This enables effective muscle protein synthesis to take place, allowing muscles to grow in size. 

A common analogy likens your muscles to a brick wall. Resistance training is when the sledgehammer smashes down the wall (ouch). Protein and nutrition build the wall back up, but with more bricks (phew). With a larger and stronger wall, it takes more for the sledgehammer to break it down. This is why it’s easier to build more muscle as a beginner, and more difficult as an advanced trainer. 

Protein powder

Protein powder, including the likes of whey protein and vegan protein, is the go-to supplement for those looking to enhance the results of their training. Numerous studies show that protein supplementation has a positive effect on building lean muscle mass when training stimulus is adequate [1]. Put simply, informed training combined with protein supplementation equals progress. 

There are many different types of protein powder. The most popular is a balanced whey consisting mainly of protein. But for those looking to increase their muscle mass and promote weight gain, a mass gainer could be a better option. If you’re on an intense bulking programme, struggle to put on muscle, or want an easier way to boost those daily calories, this is the formula for you.

For the advanced trainer out there, our Informed Whey® Protein is recommended. Although the Informed Sport accreditation is unnecessary for casual lifters, even those not competing as professionals can benefit from the high-level formula. Its aim? To be the best protein shake money can buy.

bulk-creatine-protein

Strength and performance gain

Increasing muscle mass and gaining strength, although correlated, are not the same thing. Muscle hypertrophy has the sole concern of making the muscle appear as large as possible on the body. This is primarily for aesthetic purposes.

Meanwhile, strength gain is all about performance. How heavy can you lift? At the extremes, this often results in differing physiques. Just look at a pro powerlifter or strongman, and compare their mass and bulkiness to the carved definition of a bodybuilder. It’s chalk and cheese. And for strength athletes, that chalk is being used to lift massive barbells off the floor.

Put simply, muscle building aims to increase the size of the muscle (how it looks), while strength training aims to increase the functionality of the muscle (how it performs).

Having cleared that up, there is a lot of overlap between strength increase and muscle growth, which is why they are often viewed as synonymous. After all, a large part of creating a hypertrophic response in the muscles is to create a progressive overload. This requires a gradual increase in heavier weights (and thus an increase in strength).

This means that, in terms of supplementation, there is not much difference between muscle growth and strength gain. In particular, if you are an intermediate or non-competing lifter. It’s the training that’s different. As a trainer who incorporates both styles of training into their routine, looking to improve both aesthetics and performance at the same time, your supplementation could achieve both. The following supplement is an example of this.

Creatine Monohydrate

One of the world’s most heavily researched substances, creatine is a rockstar when it comes to empirically credible supplements. At this point, its ability to amplify  performance is unequivocal. Undisputed, undoubted. The world heavyweight champion of supplements.

But what does it actually do? Well, creatine increases physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high-intensity exercise [2]. It does this by increasing the energy available to the muscle while lifting, meaning you have the necessary reserves to perform better for longer with great results being seen in exercise that relies on explosive, repeated, high-intensity movements. Fancy some heavy squats, bench and deadlifts, anyone? If you’re interested in hearing a more detailed account on exactly how creatine works, see our guide to creatine.

Photo by Josh Greet www.joshgreet.co.uk

Fat loss

We specify this as ‘fat loss’ because we know that your goal is often not to lose weight, but to strip fat away and thus reveal the muscle underneath. This is sometimes referred to as ‘toning’, although this is something we know doesn’t actually exist

Fat loss is all about maintaining a calorie deficit. If you consume less calories than you burn, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose fat. Sounds easy, right? It is. Fat loss is simple to understand, but difficult to execute. Supplementation is there to help you with the execution part as much as possible.

Low/zero-calorie foods

Using low-calorie food alternatives can reduce your total daily intake of calories. For example, if you were to use a Zero Calorie Syrup™ in your porridge rather than something like Nutella, that could save you 80-100 calories a day (one tablespoon of Nutella contains 100 calories*). If you had porridge every morning, this one change could decrease your weekly calorie intake by 700 calories. And trust us, once you try the syrup, you won’t go back.

High percentage protein powder

The tricky part of fat loss is ensuring your hard-earned muscle mass stays there after dieting. To do this, you need patience. If you plummet your body into an overly large calorie deficit too quickly, you will struggle to adjust as it’s so different from what your body is used to. This puts you at greater risk of falling off the wagon and wondering why you find it hard to adhere to your diet. Not ideal. Instead, you need to take it slow and keep your calories and protein intake as high as possible, while still being in a significant calorie deficit. This is difficult to execute. 

That’s where protein supplementation comes in. Pure Whey Isolate™ is designed to offer a high dose of protein, with very little in the way of carbs and fats. This means it’s perfect if you want precise control over your calorie intake and macros. It allows you to hit your protein intake, while retaining an easy calorie deficit.

Wellness Week

General health and wellbeing

Vitamins

Vitamin supplementation is often overlooked. We get vitamins from wholefoods, but it is easy for many of us to miss out the amount needed to feel our optimal self. Taking vitamins is a simple and efficient method of increasing your intake and making up for any deficiencies.

  • Vitamin D3 – The ‘sunshine’ vitamin that our bodies produce from sunlight exposure. It’s not easy to obtain from diet alone, and Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common. When levels are adequate, it helps to maintain normal function of the immune system and bones.
  • Vitamin C – Promotes normal function of the immune system and contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.
  • Vitamin B12 – Contributes to maintaining normal function of the immune system, normal red blood cell formation and normal energy-yielding metabolism. It also reduces tiredness and fatigue.

Fish oils

Omega 3 Fish Oil is an essential nutrient for normal heat function. This supplement contains a combination of two fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While these fatty acids can be produced in the human body from alpha-linolenic acid, it’s an extremely inefficient process, thus supplementation ensures an optimum amount is in your system. 

As well as helping the heart, fish oils are known to help with your brain health, vision, blood lipids and blood pressure; all of which are helped by a good intake of EPA & DHA.

We believe in sharing, and we’d love to know what you think, so don’t forget to tag us in your creations using Bulk™ products. Check out @bulk recipes, ambassador workouts and tips in the rest of our blog. Join our community of fitness lovers and foodies by tagging #TeamBulk.

*Data correct based on product sold online on brand website on 12/07/2022

We believe in sharing, and we’d love to know what you think, so don’t forget to tag us when using your Bulk™ products. Check out @bulk for more recipes, ambassador workouts and tips. Join our community of fitness lovers and foodies by tagging #TeamBulk. 

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References

  1. Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR. The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2015 Jan;45(1):111-31. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2. PMID: 25169440. 
  2. Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):33. Published 2012 Jul 20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33#