Top 5 Popular Supplements: Do You Need Them?

When it comes to reaching fitness goals, one of the most commonly asked questions is, what kind of nutritional/ fitness supplements should I take to help me get there? In some cases, consuming a dietary supplement may give you a slight edge on performance and aesthetic goals. However, the multi-billion dollar supplement industry is flooded with sexy ads that make false promises. It can be extremely overwhelming to make an educated decision on what to purchase. Take a look below at our top five most asked about supplements and whether or not they may be beneficial for you!

Protein Powder

A protein powder supplement is probably the most talked about supplement among individuals who are trying to get in shape. It is essential you get you enough protein to maintain and continue building muscle. Here’s why. When we consume protein, our body then breaks it down into amino acids. These amino acids have many jobs in the body such as helping to make up enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and are also the essential building blocks for muscle building and repair. While it is very possible to get adequate protein from food alone, a protein powder, in the form a protein shake can serve as a quick and easy meal replacement. According to the USDA, the most basically level recommendation for protein intake is .8 grams per kilogram body weight (or about .36g per pound body weight). However, this recommendation is based on preventing a deficiency (basically just to survive) and not necessarily the recommendation for optimal functioning and building lean muscle. Consuming more protein has been sufficient in helping people reach a more optimal level of physique, with intake ranging from 1.6-2g per kg body weight (~ .60g per pound body weight). If you’re someone who is too busy to have a healthy protein containing meal during the day, a protein powder may be beneficial for you. Protein supplements are also effective for men/women/teenagers who have a high calorie requirements due to high metabolism and multiple hour long sport practices. The good thing about protein powders is that they are available in both vegetarian and vegan forms and can come from other sources than milk. For more info on types of protein variations click here.


BCAA’s or branched-chain amino acids are comprised of 3 essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. An essential amino acid can only be consumed as oppose to non-essential amino acids which can be produced naturally in the body. Because BCAA’s are the building blocks of protein, they are also found in protein supplements and help play the same supportive role as mentioned above. Interestingly enough, studies have gone back and forth on the effectiveness of BCAA’s. However, one study found that BCAA’s did have a positive impact on “enhancing exercise performance by exerting its influence on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances.” Many BCAA supplements do not have calories (or have very few) and are mixed right in water which makes them easier to drink pre/during workout than a more heavy protein powder. In addition, high quality formulated BCAA’s may include other added ingredients that can be effective. For example, The Journal of Nutrition states that there was some evidence regarding L-Glutamine in muscle recovery and an increased amino acid sensitivity. If you have long duration workouts, engage in longer endurance activities (biking, running etc.), workout frequently where maximizing recovery between workouts in important or you are in a caloric deficit due to dieting BCAA’s may be worth trying!


A pre-workout is the umbrella term that refers to any supplement that is recommended to be taken prior to exercise with the purpose of increasing your energy, workout capacity or performance during your workout. This is an attractive supplement to people who may feel tired or rundown and need the extra boost before a workout (seems like a lot of us would fall in this category!). Caffeine is a commonly used as a main stimulant in pre-workouts ranging from 0 - 350mg per serving. A study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, concluded that pre-workout supplements can increase anaerobic power significantly when the main ingredient is caffeine. However, not everyone needs a preworkout. If early mornings or late nights are the only times you can workout, a preworkout may supply you the energy needed. Though, taking a caffeine based supplement at night may make it harder to fall asleep. Always exercise caution when starting to use a pre-workout. Some pre-workouts are specifically aimed towards overloading their ingredient list with stimulants. Because everybody may have a different tolerance level to the stimulants, start with a smaller than recommended dose to gauge how it makes you feel during your workout. Keep in mind that women and lower weight individuals may need smaller doses.


Creatine is the most studied sports supplement and maybe slightly more controversial than the others listed above because people often mistake it for an illegal or unsafe substance. However,  of all the performance supplements it may have the biggest positive impacts on performance. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in muscle cells. The thought is that, by taking creatine, we can increase our natural storage in the muscle, this will translate to more energy and endurance for heavy lifting. In other words, the idea is that creatine supplementation helps get those last 1 or 2 reps at the end of your set and therefore helps build muscle strength and size. It is often naturally occuring in meats. One study for that supplementing with 5g of creatine had a positive effect on strength and hypertrophy. If you are a casual, recreational gym-goer, there may not be a need to supplement with creatine. However, if you are training specifically to get really strong, you can be a candidate for creatine. Keep in mind that creatine supplementation, just like any other supplementation, can interfere with other medications so you definitely should consider consulting your doctor and making sure you are dosing properly.


A multivitamin supplement can be used to supplement your daily routine if there is a concern that certain vitamins and minerals are not being consumed through food alone. If you are following a certain diet/lifestyle that requires you to completely eliminate certain food groups, you may be more susceptible to a deficiency in something. When choosing a multivitamin consider what vitamins and minerals it contains as they can be different across brands, also find a trusted brand, like Nutrabio, and consider adding it to your stack of supplements if you lack variety in your diet. If you are also following a calorically restricted eating plan and embarking on an extremely hard regiment, you may benefit from making sure you are replenishing with supplementation. A study on multivitamins showed, cardiovascular benefits associated with the intake of a multivitamin and immune response was also elevated when a daily multivitamin was consumed in individuals who did have deficiencies. A good rule of thumb is before beginning a multivitamin routine, consult your doctor to see whether or not you are a good candidate and how it may interact with any other medication you may be taking.     

Keep in mind the overall effectiveness of a fitness/nutritional supplement depends on many different factors. In an industry with thousands of different suppliers of a similar product, taking the time to research the one that is produced with the best quality byproducts and using the best procedures is important. Believe it or not, unlike food products, supplements do not need to be FDA approved for quality control. However, some supplements do seek FDA approval. These are great brands to consider. The other factor that influences effectiveness is your current diet and lifestyle factors.  No fitness supplement will make up for poor nutritional choices and half-assed training. Keep in mind, a supplement is just that, a supplement to your diet. Eat your fruits and vegetables, add lean protein to your meals, consume foods high in omega-3’s, minimize sugar and highly processed foods, get adequate rest/sleep, be consistent with your training and stay hydrated ---then you allow for a supplement to be at its most effectiveness.

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