When you perform a search for the best supplements for beginners, you usually find numerous sites for pre-workout, intra, and post-workout supplements geared towards body building and muscle mass gain. For someone who is more of an endurance athlete looking to get back into shape or a beginner at working out, it can be a bit overwhelming to see the number of choices available that all seem to be “top-rated” and “recommended.” Many websites are just looking to push a particular product to sell and other sites review supplements strictly from a body building perspective.
So where does a beginner athlete start? In my experience and after extensive research, the best way to start is to build your cardio endurance before going into weight training. Running endurance requires a strong focus, energy for performance, and recovery time after long runs to combat muscle strain. Endurance will help boost your immune system and provide increased oxygen to the muscles.
In this article, we will look at some of the criteria for energy supplements that beginners should use in preparing for a healthy fresh start. The first topic will look at the importance of multi-vitamins and minerals to supplement our diet prior to taking any performance powders. The next topic will look at the best ingredients of a pre-workout supplement. The third topic will focus on green drinks and protein shakes for extra post-workout nutrition and recovery. The last paragraph will focus on the benefits of using fish oil to improve endurance nutrition. Here are the five amazing energy boosters as well as examples of each that work for beginners.
1. Multivitamins to supplement your diet
It is essential for beginning endurance athletes to maintain a balanced healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, protein, and whole grains as much as possible. A great diet can provide the majority of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that an endurance athlete would need. The rest can be supplemented through various multivitamins to improve nutrition.
Excessive sweating will cause us to lose vital minerals. It is essential to find a multi-vitamin that contains vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Potassium, and calcium to stay hydrated and keep bones strong. The best multi-vitamin that I have found to work for me is Centrum Specialist for Energy. It comes in a 60 tablet container and includes a health does of the majority of vitamins that you will need to get started. It is a little low on calcium, but that can be supplemented by eating eggs, oranges, cheese, broccoli, wheat bread, or drinking milk to name a few.
Water is also considered a supplement that is absolutely important to your ability to sustain a great endurance workout. At least 8 glasses a day are recommended to balance your digestive system.
2. Best Pre-Workout ingredients
The next step is finding the best pre-workout supplements that your body can handle. I say this because many of these pre-workout powder supplements can contain an unhealthy amount of caffeine. Some of them can overpower even the largest bodybuilders and cause them to crash or get the jitters after prolonged intense workouts.
A healthy dose of caffeine for beginners would be from 200-250 milligrams to start. There are also stimulants that are free of caffeine for those that already get a large dose of it during the day through coffee. We can discuss those in another article as I have yet to try some of these supplements. Also, consider skipping coffee in the morning if you are already taking supplements that contain caffeine, as too much can dehydrate you.
The main ingredients that you will want to look for in a great cardio pre-workout supplement include:
- Energy: Electrolyte blend of Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium
- Endurance: 7 grams of Branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs – 2:1:1 ratio): Leucine – 3500 mg, Isoleucine – 1750 mg, & Valine 1750 mg, Glutamine – 2500 mg
- Performance Fuel: 0 Carbohydrates, 0 Sugars or alternative Advanced Carbohydrate mix (such as CytoMax); basically if you don’t get enough protein through your diet, then a carbohydrate mix can supplement the fuel needed.
- Extra energy: Caffeine, anhydrous and/or Theanine (200 mg each)
- Extra performance: Citrulline Malate – 1000 mg, Beta Alanine – 4 grams
BCAAs are a quick and extremely low-calorie way to promote lean muscle health through three essential branched-chain amino acids. These ingredients are in addition to your daily protein intake. Your protein can be either soy or whey-based. But if you go with whey, it should be the isolate and should be consumed post-workout for greater effectiveness on muscles. Soy-based proteins are better for pre-workout.
The pre-workout supplement that I use is Xtend GO by Scivation. It comes with 7 grams of BCAAs, 0 Carbs, 0 Sugar, 0 calories, Vitamin B6, Electrolyte blend of sodium and potassium, citrulline Malate, and Caffeine Anhydrous. It provides a healthy dose of each of the ingredients discussed above and makes a for a great introduction to pre-workout supplements.
3. Green drinks and Protein shakes
We don’t always get our fill of the necessary vegetables needed to gain muscle and lose fat. There are many healthy ingredients that can be found in green powders, but they should supplement a good diet instead of being consumed by themselves. In other words, do not completely rely on green drinks for all of your calories in a diet or weight loss plan.
Green drinks are mainly used to “detox” your system, and they do a great job of that when done the right way. Some of the things to consider when looking at green drinks include:
- What sweeteners do they use?
- Do I need protein added in?
- Is it non-GMO and pesticide free?
- How many servings of vegetables are included per drink?
In my experience, I’ve tried plant-powdered shakes with protein and the biggest issue I had was the taste. It can taste kind of mushy and sort of like you’re eating plants from a pond. There are some newer green drink powders that take care of that and embody everything you need to get started. The supplement I would suggest would be Lean Greens.
Lean Greens contains many of the ingredients needed to curb cravings, provide fiber for your diet, and improve bowel health. These ingredients include (but are not limited to):
- Wheatgrass – a healthy food high in Vitamin E, potassium, and fiber
- Spirulina – a type of algae with a high protein content that improves muscular endurance and lowers cholesterol
- Chlorella – another high protein green rich in Vitamins B6, B12, and Magnesium
- Vegetables like Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, and Carrot
- Green tea extract – a proven fat burner that supports blood vessel health
- Siberian Ginseng – has a positive effect on mood and cognition
4. The benefits of Fish oil
Endurance athletes can benefit from fatty fish oils, which provide healthy bones, reduced inflammation, fewer sore muscles, and flexibility of joints. Modern diets are deficient of this much-needed ingredient, since our bodies cannot produce these Omega-3 vital fats. We can also get these fats from seeds, nuts, or krill oil.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids include two major acids: 1) Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 2) Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA shift the body’s balance of inflammation to reduce pain and cholesterol levels. The long term effect is a lower risk of heart disease. Tuna and anchovies are also a great source of fish oil. The supplement I usually take is Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil. There are many brands to choose from that are all great sources. I go with this supplement for the large healthy dose of 980 mg of Omega-3.
5. Post-workout Recovery shake
The main idea behind the post workout protein shake is to easily increase your daily protein intake to promote greater lean muscle growth and fat metabolism. When looking for a great post-workout supplement, consider these items:
- Source of protein: Whey (Isolate), Egg, Beef, Plant, or Soy
- Sweeteners or Flavors: Natural vs. Artificial
- Choice of flavors and taste
I don’t have a best recommendation yet for a post-workout recovery shake. For beginners, I would probably go with EAS AdvantEdge Protein shake. It includes 30 grams of protein and many vitamins and minerals needed to support recovery. It is also pretty inexpensive to buy in bulk at the grocery store or a local Walgreens.
Overall, the best start for a beginner is a healthy diet and regular exercise. When using supplements, only take the recommended doses and don’t overdo it or exercise to the point of exhaustion. Know your limits and be smart. Once you start to gain more lean muscle, then you can work in more creatine and carnitine formulas for further advancement. Increasing your endurance first opens up many doors for muscle growth that would be limited otherwise.
Hopefully this article has given you an idea of where to start and what ingredients to look for when supplementing your daily diet. Progress will come gradually over time, and the body needs the flexibility to adjust to new nutrients and super foods. After your body goes through this transformation, then you will really start to see results and it will reveal new limits to your physical nutrition.