As a Nutrition Coach and Strongman competitor, I’m constantly being asked about the best supplements for increasing strength. Before delving into such a topic, it’s important to understand the reality of investing in supplements:
Supplements do not make you stronger, nor are supplements a substitute for adequate sleep, an intelligent training plan or a healthy diet. Supplements are beneficial only when these first three items are in line and under control. Without a solid foundation, there is nothing to actually “supplement”; you’ll be buying pills and powders and flushing them down the toilet.
With this in mind, there are a handful of supplements that can help dedicated individuals more efficiently chase their goal of increasing strength.
The Obvious Kings: Creatine and Protein Supplementation
If you’re trying to gain strength and you haven’t yet considered creatine, you failed the test by simply forgetting to write down your name. Creatine is arguably the most well-research supplement on the planet. It’s something that our bodies produce naturally, it’s something we get in the diet from animal sources and it’s nothing but beneficial to overall health, both physically and cognitively. Although some will get more benefit from creatine than others (depending on genetics and diet; non-meat eaters stand to benefit the most), it is a supplement will enable you to super-compensate your tissues with the material that supplies your cells with energy required for the first 5 seconds of a heavy lift. Supplement with at least 5g daily, but if you feel like getting crazy and supplementing with more, I won’t blame you.
Muscles produce strength. Muscles are made of amino acids. Protein is made of amino acids. Ingesting proteindecreases muscle breakdown and increases synthesis. Around workouts, taking a protein supplement like wheyprotein will enter the blood stream faster than whole food sources and will more effectively support your goals of preserving and growing muscle tissue. Furthermore, a 70kg male will turnover approximately 400g of proteindaily. Does this mean you need to consumed 400g of protein daily? Absolutely not, but the more you consume the more you’ll support this turnover. Maintaining and growing lean muscle mass is the foundation of strength, and you can do this by consuming at least 1g or protein per pound of body weight daily and by consuming a minimum of 20g of protein every 3-4 hours.
Myth alert! Can the human body absorb more than 30g of protein in a meal? Absolutely it can; refer to the information above about daily protein turnover. The myth that the body cannot absorb more than 30g of protein per meal comes from the fact that muscle protein synthesis peaks at 20-30g per meal, but any amount of protein consumed on top of this is still absorbed and goes towards preventing further muscle breakdown, which is still extremely valuable.
The Overhyped and Abused: Caffeine
Although it’s true that caffeine is an ergogenic aid, this applies to muscular endurance, not muscular strength…