A beginner’s guide to workout supplements

By in Sports & Health

A popular New Year’s resolution is to get fit. Every year gyms are flooded with newcomers hoping to better themselves physically. Working out is the first step in getting fit but there’s another tool that every avid gym-goer has at least heard of: supplements.

The sheer number of supplements on the market can be overwhelming to those who are new to fitness, but there are several tried and true supplements that can help improve a workout experience.

Protein powder

Workout supplements can help you build muscle with your fitness routine.

Protein powder is probably the most popular form of supplement. There are a handful of different kinds of protein powder, and plant protein, whey protein and whey isolate protein are the most common. For the beginner, it doesn’t matter too much which of these are chosen, since it is simply an efficient and cheap source of protein that is easy to eat on the go.

Some think protein powder is unnecessary and that it is better to get the protein through the food we eat. For students with busy lives and thin pockets, however, protein powder is an excellent way to get the protein needed to recover properly after a workout.

Timing doesn’t play a significant role in the effectiveness of protein powder, but there have been some studies that show a slight benefit if a protein shake is ingested within 30 minutes of a workout. Shakes also make great breakfast replacements for those of us who struggle to make it to our morning classes.

Pre-workout supplements

Pre-workout supplements do wonders to help push the limits of a workout, give a body the energy it needs to run that last mile, push through that last rep or break a personal record. Pre-workout supplements are best taken 15 to 30 minutes before a workout but can instead be taken during a longer workout to help push through to the end.

Pre-workout supplements are usually a mix of several different supplements that provide energy, increase endurance or help build muscle. Since the ingredients often vary from mix to mix, it is important to read the ingredient list to know exactly what it’s designed to do. The vast majority of these contain some combination of caffeine, beta alanine, creatine and amino acids but often include other ingredients as well. Taking this into consideration, a little research into specific mixes is often worthwhile.


Creatine is every weightlifter’s best friend, as it helps in the building of muscle. Creatine generally comes as a powder that can be mixed into a drink, but it can also be found in pill form.

Creatine is also found naturally in meat — specifically beef — as well as salmon and tuna. However, it is one of the least expensive supplements out there and ensuring a daily dose is crucial to the effectiveness of this supplement.

There is currently little regulation for supplements in Canada and there has been some controversy over the past couple years regarding the accuracy of labels. It is recommended to check third-party sources that can verify the contents of the more common brands of supplements. Two of the more common third party sources for supplement testing are LabDoor and ConsumerLabs, with LabDoor focusing more on workout supplements.

Workout supplements are simply a set of tools available to fitness enthusiasts looking to push their workout to its limits. They are not meant for everyone and should be taken to improve a workout, not replace it. When used properly, however, supplements can certainly help to improve the workout experience.

Jonah Egan-Pimblett

Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor