6 Best Workout Supplements to Supercharge Your Training
- Whether you’re just starting, returning from a hiatus or adjusting to working out at home, you might be wondering, “What are the best workout supplements?”
- This article explains the most effective workout supplements, whether workout supplements are worth it and how they work.
- These science-backed supplements will help you feel stronger, recover better and take your athletic performance to the next level.
Whether you’re just starting a new workout routine or adjusting to working out at home, you might be wondering whether workout supplements actually work. So many different products on the market promise miracles. What are the best workout supplements to hit your goals, and which ones are a total waste?
These six science-backed supplements will actually help you take your athletic performance to the next level.
Best workout supplements for next-level training
1. Creatine for cell power
Creatine has been a workout staple for decades. It’s stuck around for so long because it really works. Creatine increases ATP (energy) production in your muscles and recharges them while you rest. This buys you a few extra precious seconds of explosive power before you slow down and switch to using oxygen for fuel.
Creatine also stimulates protein synthesis, which can make you build muscle much faster. People who paired creatine with resistance training put on lean muscle mass anywhere from 15-200% faster than people who did the same workouts with a placebo. If that wasn’t enough, creatine is also a nootropic. It enhances memory and delays mental fatigue.
You have a couple options when it comes to creatine. The original and best-studied form is creatine monohydrate. It’s very effective — after you get it to a high enough concentration in your muscles. To do that, you have two options.
- Take 5g/day and wait a month for it to kick in
- Do a “loading phase” in which you take 20g/day (4 doses of 5g) for a week, then 5g/day to maintain after that
If you do the loading phase, be sure to drink a LOT of water. Creatine increases muscle hydration, so you want to get much more water than you normally would. It’s not uncommon to get a mild dehydration headache and bloating during the creatine loading phase. It should go away when you finish loading and drop down to a normal dose.
There’s also creatine nitrate. It’s a newer, more expensive version of creatine. Companies claim it absorbs better and that the nitrate form doesn’t require a loading phase, but good research on creatine nitrate is scarce.
You can try it and look for a difference or just stick with classic creatine monohydrate.Creatine gets into your muscles more effectively if you pair it with a tiny amount of glucose. You don’t need much. Try taking it with a quarter of a teaspoon of raw honey.
- Creatine monohydrate suggested dose: 20g/day (5g 4 times daily) for one week, then 5g/day to maintain
- When to take it: Morning (or throughout day for loading phase)
- Favorite brand: Jarrow Formulas 100% pure creatine
2. D-ribose for energy production
D-ribose might be the most Bulletproof member of the sugar family. It has a maple-like sweetness to it, but because it contains 5 carbons instead of the 6 found in table sugar, ribose doesn’t raise your blood glucose.
It does, however, significantly improve your energy production by enhancing your mitochondria. Ribose is a critical component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that stores energy in your cells. Exercise empties your ATP; ribose helps to fill them back up more quickly, decreasing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery time after you work out. Ribose also enhances overall mitochondrial function, which can be great if you want an overall boost throughout the day. Try using it to sweeten your coffee.
A quick word of caution: unlike most sugars, ribose actually lowers your blood glucose. If you’re prone to hypoglycemia, take your ribose with meals to counter the effect, and don’t take more than 10g at a time.
- Suggested dose: 5g/day
- When to take it: 1 hour before you work out
- Favorite brand: a low-glycemic sugar substitute
Related: How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for Your Body
3. PQQ and CoQ10 for an energetic edge
When you combine pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), you end up with turbocharged mitochondria, which means more energy for every cell in your body. When your mitochondria are pumping out extra energy, you feel it in your mental endurance and muscular energy.
- In rodent studies, PQQ has been found to promote the creation of new mitochondria. 
- PQQ improves mitochondrial function in human skin cells, protecting skin from UV radiation and slowing down aging
- PQQ promotes the growth of new mitochondria in rodents
Extra cellular energy can give you an edge in the gym. The struggle with PQQ is bioavailability. It’s difficult to get it through your digestion and bloodstream and into your mitochondria. Bulletproof Unfair Advantage uses a colloidal delivery system. Taking a couple of these before you workout can drive you to push through an extra few seconds or reps.
- Suggested dose: 2-4 ampules
- When to take it: 1 hour before you work out
- Favorite brand: Bulletproof Unfair Advantage
4. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for faster recovery
BCAA supplements contain the amino acids isoleucine, leucine, and valine. BCAAs:
- Boost testosterone and mTOR, creating a better environment for your body to both burn fat and build muscle
- Suppress cortisol and increase protein synthesis, which helps your body repair muscles more quickly after an intense workout
BCAA powder is one of the most commonly adulterated supplements. It tastes horrifyingly bitter and doesn’t mix well with water, so many manufacturers add artificial sweeteners and dissolving agents to it. Stay away from products that contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame potassium (ace-K), and sucralose.
Here’s a rundown of the best sweetener options, and sunflower/soy lecithin are by far the best dissolving agents. If you don’t like sweeteners or you’re a masochist, drink unflavored BCAAs. Or, you can take it in capsule form and avoid the nasty taste altogether.
- Suggested dose: 5g
- When to take it: One dose before you work out, one dose after
- Favorite brand: Physique Formula Xylitol-sweetened BCAAs
5. Whey protein and colostrum to build muscle
Whey is the king of post-exercise proteins. It increases muscle synthesis more than soy or casein protein. It also promotes extra muscle growth even when you get plenty of other protein in your diet. It decreases muscle soreness after you exercise, too. It’s the gold standard.
Like BCAAs, commercial whey is often full of nasty fillers and sweeteners. Look for whey from 100% grass-fed, grass-finished cows that have never been exposed to hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides.
You can also boost the effects of whey using grass-fed colostrum, the nutrient cows feed their newborns in the four to five days post-birth. Colostrum on its own increases lean body mass and performance, as well as recovery. Plus, it improves gut health and your immune system, which can counter the dip in immune function you get with heavy exercise. Whey and colostrum together are a powerful step up from standard commercial protein powders.
- Suggested dose: 10-15g
- When to take it: Within an hour after exercise
- Favorite brand: Naked Whey
6. Collagen protein to support flexible joints
Collagen plays a big role in your entire body. This protein contains amino acid building blocks your body uses to support hydrated skin, flexible joints and strong bones.
Whether you’re a powerlifter or a morning jogger, exercise stresses your body and joints. When you take a collagen protein supplement, you give your body extra amino acids to support stronger joints, tendons and ligaments. When you have healthier joints, you have better mobility, which increases your range of motion and allows you to get more movement out of each rep.
Collagen protein may also support muscle mass. It contains the amino acids arginine and glycine, two amino acids your body uses to create creatine. Adding collagen protein to your post-workout recovery stack is an easy way to support your recovery.
Collagen contains eight out of the nine essential amino acids, as well as glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Unless you regularly eat bone broth and organ meat, these amino acids are scarce in the standard American diet. That’s why collagen protein supplements are so beneficial. Look for hydrolyzed collagen peptides. “Hydrolyzed” means the collagen has been broken down so it’s easier to digest.
- Suggested dose: 10-20g collagen
- When to take it: Before or after your workout
These supplements can truly enhance your athletic performance. When choosing a workout supplement, it’s crucial to do some digging and find a brand you can trust. Give them a try and let us know what you think after a few weeks.
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This is an updated version of an article originally published July 2019.