When you first join a gym and start lifting weights it’s very easy to see progress in a short space of time, just by putting your body through a workout will see it respond to the new stimulus. When starting out it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information we have available to us and people end up starting out with advanced workout techniques and specialist supplements before they have even mastered the basics.
Simply getting started on a beginners program and following a structured diet will see results in a short space of time and this should be your main focus right from the start. Having said that there is a way to accelerate this process further and that is by taking advantage of some essential supplements early on. Not all supplements will be relevant and needed by a beginner, if you are trying to build muscle and eating in a calorie surplus then using fat burners wouldn’t be an optimal strategy, instead focus on the following three supplements to really take advantage of beginner gains.
Daily protein intake for someone training and lifting weights should be around 1g protein per 1lb of body weight as a rough guide so if you weigh 170lbs then you need to be aiming to consume 170g of protein per day. This is to ensure you are constantly in the process of building and repairing muscle which is known as being in an anabolic state. The reverse of this is not consuming enough protein to recover from a training session and being in a catabolic state (protein breakdown in the muscles), this is the last thing you want when and therefore it’s essential that you consume that daily protein target as a minimum.
For most this might be a very high target if your daily diet is currently something like a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and crisp for lunch and then a takeaway pizza for dinner. Hitting a protein target involves consuming filling whole foods (chicken, meat, fish, nuts) and therefore might be difficult to do at first when you are not used to eating this way which is where a protein supplement will be a diet staple.
Whey protein is an easily digestible protein powder that can be utilised to hit your protein intake without having to consume as much food (though make sure you are prioritising whole foods first). A typical 25g scoop of whey protein will provide 20g protein so a few scoops a day will make all the difference to hitting your daily requirements.
One of the most scientifically researched and studied supplements in the Health & Fitness industry is Creatine Monohydrate. Creatine in simple terms is a natural energy source for muscle cells which is used during high-intensity training, the body can create its own creatine however only in small quantities, even when consuming it from external sources in red meat and fish.
The average person stores roughly 1.7g of creatine for every kilogram of body weight, however, we have a maximum capacity of 2.3g per kilogram of bodyweight so on average we are some way off this level. Not having the maximum reserves available to you for training will definitely impact on your progress if you can’t train to your maximum capacity. Supplement between 3g - 5g daily in order to keep your creatine stores at an optimal level at all times.
ZMA is a formula made up of Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6 and is the final supplement I’d recommend for a beginner as being close to essential. Studies show that people are deficient in both Zinc and Magnesium which are vital to testosterone production, a hormone necessary for building muscle. Optimising testosterone production can only be beneficial however the main reason for considering this essential is because it aids in deep sleep which is really essential for recovery.
Recovery from training is often the most overlooked aspect, people focus on training hard (especially when you are a beginner and instead of training hard, training is just plain hard) however do not put the same focus into rest and recovery which is when the muscle-building process occurs. Taking ZMA 30 minutes before sleep on an empty stomach will see a much deeper sleep and allow you to better recover better from your training.
Your main focus as a beginner should be on following a training routine and diet plan tailored to your specific goals as these will see the quickest changes to your progress and physique. You don’t need to try every routine, diet or product on the market from the start however adding in the above supplements to your diet from the start will definitely help accelerate your progress at a quicker rate.
About the Author
Simon Byrne is a Health and Fitness writer producing content for the supplement industry for the last 5 years with a focus placed on improving body composition. He is a certified Nutritionist through Precision Nutrition (PNL1) and a Level 3 Fitness Instructor.