The 6 Best Supplements to Support Your Workout for 2023

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate has 20 grams of protein & is NSF Certified for Sport

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The Best Supplements to Support Your Workout

VWT / Alli Waataja

If you enjoy working out or regularly participate in competitive sports, then you’ve likely seen a variety of supplements online with claims of improving strength, endurance, and athletic performance. However, it can be difficult to determine when and if you need a supplement, as well as which ones may actually help improve your workout.

The supplements with research to back their effectiveness can offer significant benefits to workout performance, especially in competitive athletes or those who do strenuous exercise. However, experts recommend focusing primarily on diet before adding supplements to boost performance. “A common myth about working out/being physically active is that it requires additional fuel (calories and protein mostly) and supplements,” says Jennifer Fiske, MS, RDN, LD, registered dietitian in Dallas, TX. “For the majority of recreationally active individuals this is not the case.”

If you choose to take a supplement to boost your performance during a workout, it’s best to stick to those that have benefits backed by research. Our sports dietitian shares insights for research-backed supplements along with top picks in each supplement category to help you make the best decision about supplements for your workout.

Verywell Fit Approved Supplements to Support Your Workout

  • Best Whey Protein: Klean Athlete Klean Isolate is an NSF Certified for Sport whey isolate powder that provides 20 grams of high-quality protein per serving.
  • Best Carbohydrate Chew: Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews provide an optimal blend of carbohydrates to give you an energy boost during your endurance workout. 

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Is Taking Supplements Beneficial for Your Workout?

Keep in mind that many factors influence performance, and supplements aren’t always required for a performance boost. “An athlete can absolutely be successful without supplementing if they are focusing on optimal nutrition, sleep, stress management, hydration, and follow a smart training plan with adequate recovery/rest days,” says Michelle Caslin, RDN, CSSD, sports dietitian and owner of Fuel2Live Nutrition, LLC. 

Given that there is a wide range of intensity, length, and type of exercise, as well as many individual factors influencing performance, it’s important to recognize the nuance when determining if a supplement can help you get a better workout. 

Consider the following before adding a supplement to benefit your workout:

Diet Pattern

Your diet pattern is defined as the foods eaten most consistently over a period of time. Active people that eat a balanced diet that meets energy and nutrient needs are less likely to require additional supplements.

Diets that eliminate food groups or diets that require avoidance of certain foods due to allergies, preference, or cultural reasons may benefit from supplementation to fill nutrient gaps if food alone is insufficient.

Workout Type and Duration

It’s important to keep in mind not all workouts may benefit from a supplement. High intensity exercise or long-duration exercise are more likely to benefit from supplementation. Low- to moderate-intensity workouts less than 60 minutes are less likely to see a performance benefit from supplements. 

In general, endurance exercise lasting longer than 60-90 minutes may benefit from the addition of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluids for optimal performance. In the case of high-intensity exercise (also called high intensity interval training HIIT), some research has shown supplements may help boost your workout, although more research is needed. These include, but are not limited to, beta-alanine supplements, caffeine, creatine, and carbohydrate-containing foods or supplements, and fluids.

Performance Goals

If you have a specific performance goal you’re working towards, then you may benefit from a research-backed supplement to help you reach your goal. For example, caffeine ingestion prior to exercise may improve endurance, which could be advantageous for endurance-based sports like running, cycling, or swimming. However, if you take caffeine before a walk or yoga class, you won’t see a benefit to your workout, and it could leave you feeling jittery. In this case, the addition of the caffeine supplement is not matched with your performance goal or appropriate for a workout benefit. Knowing your performance goals can help you when deciding if a supplement is necessary for your workout.

Also keep in mind that taking a supplement around your workout will not guarantee a boost in your workout gains. Your workouts need to be appropriate for your goals. For example, if you want to build muscle, your workouts need to be designed for this goal. If they are not, taking a supplement cannot supersede gains you would get from a workout designed for building muscle. Likewise, if you are not working out, taking a workout supplement will not likely give you any benefit.

Who May Not Benefit From Taking Supplements to Support a Workout?

Some groups of people are unlikely to benefit from taking a supplement to support their workout. However, the reasons why a supplement may not be beneficial will vary greatly depending on individual factors and goals. The following groups may not need or benefit from a workout supplement.

People who get enough nutrients from their diet.

“Most individuals can meet their calorie and nutrient needs through a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. A supplement like a preworkout drink may provide immediate benefit in the form of energy, but the same can be accomplished with strategic fueling,” says Fiske. Strategic fueling can mean you simply workout in between meals, before, or after a snack, so you don’t necessarily need to supplement before or after a workout.

People who regularly participate in moderate to low-intensity exercise and who have a balanced diet that supports their nutrient needs are unlikely to need a workout supplement. 

People who experience negative side effects from certain supplements.

If you have a negative side effect from a supplement, you should not take them even if they offer research-supported benefits. For example, caffeine can cause jitteriness or nervousness in some people. Some people may have unpleasant side effects even at recommended doses of beta-alanine.

Supplements that are contraindicated when taking certain medications are also not recommended, as the training benefits do not outweigh the risks and/or unintended consequences. If you take medication, always consult a healthcare professional before taking a workout supplement.

Best Electrolytes

Nuun Sport Electrolyte Drink Tablets

Nuun Sport Hydration Tablets

Amazon

Pros
  • Informed Choice Certified

  • Convenient and easy to carry

  • Suitable for vegan, kosher, and gluten-free diets

  • No artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors

Cons
  • May be too low in electrolytes for heavy sweaters or elite athletes

  • Low in carbohydrates

Nuun Sport Hydration Tablets are a convenient electrolyte replacement that is easily dissolved in water. The tablets contain the primary electrolytes lost in sweat including sodium, potassium, and chloride. We appreciate that Nuun products are Informed Choice Certified meaning they are third-party tested for banned substances. They are also certified kosher, vegan, and gluten-free making them suitable for a variety of dietary restrictions.

One serving of a tablet contains 300 mg sodium, 150 mg potassium, and 40 mg chloride as well as 25 mg magnesium and 13 mg calcium. It’s by design these tablets contain mostly sodium, as sodium is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat. While total sweat and electrolyte losses vary significantly, the 300 mg of sodium in Nuun tablets fall in the recommended range of replacing sodium lost in sweat from exercise.

Note these tablets are very low in carbohydrates, so they should be paired with carbs—if needed—for endurance exercise that is at least 60 minutes. These tablets are sweetened with stevia, and beet powder is used for coloring making them free of artificial colors.

Price at time of publication: $30 ($0.75 per serving)

Key nutrient: sodium, potassium, chloride | Serving size: 1 tablet (5.5 g) with 16 fl oz | Servings per container: 10 in each tube  | Amount of key nutrient: 300 mg sodium, 150 mg potassium, 40 mg chloride  | Other nutrients: magnesium and calcium | Added sweetener (Y/N): Y | Vegan (Y/N): Y

Best Pre-Workout

Ladder Strawberry Lemonade Pre-Workout

Ladder Pre-Workout

Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Suitable for vegan and gluten free diets

  • No artificial colors or flavors

Cons
  • Ingredient amounts amount may not be best for everyone

  • Expensive

Ladder pre-workout is an NSF Certified for Sport supplement that contains a combination of creatine, caffeine, beta-alanine, and L-citrulline. Some research suggests these ingredients may be beneficial in some instances as a pre-workout supplement.

One serving has 200 milligrams (mg) caffeine which is equivalent to the caffeine found in two cups of home-brewed coffee (~100 mg caffeine per 8 fluid ounces). Research shows caffeine may provide a performance benefit in the dose of 3-6 mg of caffeine per kilogram body weight in the 60 minutes prior to exercise. This is likely related to the effect caffeine has on muscle contraction and on the central nervous system. 

Additionally, the benefits of caffeine before exercise have been shown in both untrained and trained people, so you could see a potential performance benefit no matter your fitness level. Note that more is not always better with caffeine—high doses closer to 9 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight can increase risk of negative side effects and do not have additional workout benefits.

In addition to caffeine, Ladder pre-workout contains beta-alanine. Some research suggests beta-alanine may improve muscle endurance when taken in doses of 4 to 6 grams (g) for a minimum of two weeks. However it can result in an uncomfortable side effect known as paraesthesia which is a tingling sensation of the skin. This is most often seen in higher doses of beta-alanine and may be avoided if the dosage is lowered to under 1.6 g. Conveniently, one scoop of Ladder pre-workout contains 1.6 g of beta-alanine making it easy to hit this target. 

Ladder pre-workout also contains creatine, as research suggests creatine can play a role in building lean muscle mass when taken at the recommended dose of 3-5 grams per day. Research shows that creatine improves endurance allowing for the muscles to work harder for longer, making it helpful for increasing mass.

One drawback of Ladder pre-workout is that it’s very low in carbohydrates with less than 1 gram per serving. Carbohydrates prior to exercise have shown to have a performance benefit, so it may be best to take this pre-workout with a source of carbohydrates for maximum results if desired. Another potential drawback is not everyone may want all of the ingredients or at the dosage in this supplement. For example, some may be sensitive to this amount of caffeine in a supplement. 

This supplement is free of artificial colors, flavors, and is available in strawberry lemonade and tropical fruit flavors. It is also suitable for vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free diets.

Price at time of publication: $56 ($1.87/serving)

Key nutrient: caffeine, beta alanine, creatine  | Serving size: 1 scoop (22.5 g)   | Servings per container: 30  | Amount of key nutrient: 200 mg caffeine, 1.6 g beta alanine, 5 g creatine | Other nutrients: L-citrulline, L-theanine  | Added sweetener (Y/N): Y  | Vegan (Y/N): Y

Best Whey Protein Powder

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate

Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • No artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors

  • Available in multiple flavors

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Not suitable for vegans or those with a milk allergy

Klean Athlete Klean Isolate is a whey protein isolate that provides 20 grams of protein in one scoop. Whey protein is a popular workout supplement, as it contains all the essential amino acids required for muscle protein synthesis. In particular, it is a high source of leucine—a branched-chain amino acid specifically used for building muscle.

Research shows that active people may benefit from getting up to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day. Specifically, taking whey protein before or after strength training has been shown to help build muscle with strength training. This benefit is seen in people who have been strength training for a while, and those who are just beginning to strength train may not benefit from adding a protein supplement.

It’s important to note you don’t have to add whey protein to reach your goals. Getting enough overall calories and protein throughout the day along with appropriate strength training workouts are the most important factors to support your building muscle goal.

If you are looking for a whey protein supplement, we recommend Klean Athlete Klean Isolate because it is NSF Certified for Sport. It is third-party tested for ingredient amounts and also tested for banned substances. Klean Isolate is available in multiple flavors including strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, and an unflavored variety. All flavors are free of gluten, artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.

Price at time of publication $54 ($2.68/serving)

Key nutrient: whey protein  | Serving size: 1 scoop (22.3g) | Servings per container: 20 | Amount of key nutrient: 20g/scoop  | Other nutrients: n/a | Added sweetener (Y/N): N | Vegan (Y/N): N

Best Vegan Protein Powder

Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

Vitamin Shoppe

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

    Informed Choice Certified

  • Suitable for gluten-free and vegan diets

  • Good source of minerals

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Not all may want or need probiotic

If you’re vegan or otherwise need to avoid animal protein sources, a plant-based protein powder can be a good alternative to help you meet your protein needs. We like that Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein has strong third-party testing. It is both Informed Choice Certified and NSF Certified for Sport. 

It contains a mix of plant-based sources of protein from peas, navy beans, garbanzo beans, lentil beans, and cranberry seeds. Mixed plant-based protein sources may provide a more balanced amino acid profile versus single-source plant-based proteins which is beneficial for muscle protein synthesis.

Research shows that 6-15 grams of essential amino acids plus 1-3 grams of leucine is needed to promote muscle protein synthesis. The Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein contains 30 grams of protein that includes all the essential amino acids plus approximately 2.5 g of leucine per serving.  In addition, each 2 scoop serving is a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, and molybdenum. 

This protein powder is available in chocolate or vanilla, is gluten free, and free of added sugar. It has a recovery blend added with organic tart cherry, turmeric, apple, blueberry, and goji berry. Some research suggests these ingredients may be beneficial for helping to lower inflammation and help muscles recover, but more research is needed.

Besides a recovery blend, note a probiotic is also added to this protein powder which some may not want or need.

Price at time of publication $40 ($2.10/serving)

Key nutrient: plant-based protein  | Serving size: 2 scoops (42g) | Servings per container: 19  | Amount of key nutrient: 30g/serving  | Other nutrients: sodium, iron, selenium, zinc | Added sweetener (Y/N): Y | Vegan (Y/N): Y

Best Carbohydrate Chew

Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews

Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews

Amazon

Pros
  • Available in multiple flavors

  • Caffeinated options available

  • Contains a mix of carbohydrate sources

Cons
  • May take trial and error for individual dosing

For endurance exercise lasting longer than 60-90 minutes, supplementing a carbohydrate source before and during exercise can be beneficial. How much carbohydrates to supplement during exercise will vary, but a general recommendation is 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour for these longer workouts.

If you’re looking for a carbohydrate boost during an endurance workout, Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews are a great choice. Five chews contains 18 grams of carbohydrates from a mix of carbohydrate sources including cane sugar and tapioca syrup. You may need two servings (a full packet) during exercise to get the recommended amount of carbs during your workout. It may take some trial and error to determine the amount and timing of chews that best suits your needs during your longer workouts. 

Having a mix of carbohydrate sources is important for carbohydrate supplements because that can make digestion easier before or during endurance exercise. Research has shown combining carbohydrates to offer both glucose and fructose aids in increased absorption during exercise and may prevent gastrointestinal upset.

Each serving also contains 80 mg of sodium which helps when replacing sodium lost through sweat during exercise. However, the small quantity of sodium is unlikely to be adequate for those participating in exercise with significant sweat losses making it important to add additional sources of electrolytes.

Energy chews are a good choice if you don’t mind eating solid, chewy snacks during a workout, however it may be difficult for some people. In that case, a gel or other liquid supplement may be easier to manage. It may also take some figuring out how many chews work best for your digestive system and your energy needs. 

Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews are available with and without caffeine and come in a variety of flavors including raspberry, blueberry, sour cherry, orange, matcha green tea & lemon. There are no artificial sweeteners or colors.

Price at time of publication $24 for 10 pack ($1.20/serving)

Key nutrient: carbohydrates  | Serving size: 5 pieces  | Servings per container: 20 (2 per pack) | Amount of key nutrient: 18g carbohydrate  | Other nutrients: sodium | Added sweetener (Y/N): Y | Vegan (Y/N): Y

Best Creatine

Klean Athlete Klean Creatine Unflavored

Klean Athlete Klean Creatine

Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Suitable for gluten-free and vegan diets

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • No flavored options available

Creatine may benefit your workouts by improving muscle endurance which can help you increase the intensity and duration of your strength workout. The end result can be an increase in lean muscle mass when creatine is combined with adequate strength training routine.

Creatine is one of the most popular workout supplements, and those looking to increase muscle mass and strength could most benefit from this supplement. Typically a loading dose of 5 g, four times per day for 5-7 days is recommended and then followed with a daily intake of 3-5 g daily. There is also research suggesting timing creatine post-workout may be most beneficial for improving strength.

Creatine has been widely studied for its safety and impact on improving strength gains, but, as with any supplement, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional before starting to take creatine to determine individual recommendations and dosing guidance. 

If you want to take creatine to complement your strength workouts to help increase muscle gains, we recommend Klean Athlete Klean Creatine. Klean Athlete Klean Creatine is a single-ingredient creatine supplement made with creatine monohydrate, a highly studied source of creatine. This supplement is NSF Certified for Sport ensuring its potency and purity of ingredients while also ensuring it is free of any banned substances.

The Klean Athlete Klean Creatine is unflavored and easily mixed into a beverage of your choice.

Price at time of publication $29 ($0.48/serving)

Key nutrient: creatine monohydrate  | Serving size: 1 scoop (5g)  | Servings per container: 60  | Amount of key nutrient: 5g | Other nutrients: n/a  | Added sweetener (Y/N): N  | Vegan (Y/N): Y

4 Supplements We Do Not Recommend

We do not recommend taking any illegal doping drugs to supplement your workout. In addition, some popular workout supplements do not have sufficient research to support their use. The following four supplements are not recommended to improve your workout performance.

BCAA’s

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are essential amino acids found in complete proteins. When isolated as single amino acids, the combination of isoleucine, leucine, and valine form BCAA supplements that are either sold as a standalone supplement or are added to other compounding supplements like pre-workouts. 

“BCAA’s alone will not help with recovery, performance, or strength gains,” says Nicole Rubenstein, MS, RD, CSSD, CDCES, sports dietitian and owner of Racer's Edge Nutrition. “Instead, we want a complete protein with adequate leucine, an amino acid found in whey protein, vegan proteins that are a combination of pea and rice protein, eggs, animal proteins, and soy.”

Research is mixed on the effectiveness of BCAA supplements making it best to focus on a balanced diet that meets total protein needs.

Greens Powders

There’s no single definition for the ingredients required to make a greens powder product, but in general you can expect a combination of produce plus other other ingredients like herbs or probiotics. While greens powders may offer a benefit to certain populations looking to boost their nutrient intake, there’s limited research on their effectiveness when it comes to exercise performance. 

However, eating the optimal amount of vitamins and minerals in the diet is essential for health and athletic populations may have increased needs. If you’re looking for a direct performance boost, it’s best to prioritize diet and eating enough produce to help you meet your nutrient needs versus taking a powder.

Deer Antler Velvet

Deer antler velvet supplements claim to support muscle growth, improve recovery, and protect joints. However, there’s little research to back the claims often found on deer antler velvet supplement products. Additionally, the safety of long-term use of deer antler velvet supplements is not clear, making this supplement one that we do not recommend for improved workout performance.

Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid that’s a popular supplement touted for its role in building muscle. Research does not support the claims that glutamine aids in muscle growth making it unlikely to be beneficial to support workout performance.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products.

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look For

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Form

The form of supplement you choose greatly depends on your goals and type of planned exercise. Low-intensity and/or short-duration exercise often doesn’t require additional supplementation beyond a balanced diet that meets energy needs. 

Alternatively, high-intensity and/or long-duration exercise could benefit from appropriately timed nutrients that may be best taken via supplements. It’s best to choose a supplement that aligns with your goals and is one you can tolerate. These supplements can come in the form of powders (like protein or creatine), chews, bars, gels, liquids (carbohydrates), or tablets (electrolytes).

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Supplements are not always safe, and many have maximum dosages that must be followed for optimal results and safety.

Dosage

Dosage for supplements varies based on the type of supplement you choose as well as individual factors such as age, weight, physical fitness, diet pattern, and health status. General guidelines for popular supplements to support your workout are briefly reviewed below.

Electrolytes

Sweat rates are highly individualized and the quantity of minerals lost in sweat will vary from person to person. For this reason, there’s no single recommended intake of electrolytes for each person. Dosing of electrolytes will also depend how long you exercise, the environment, and what you eat or drink after a workout.

Creatine

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), starting with a loading creatine dosage of 5 g per day or 0.3g/kg body weight four times per day for up to a week (7 days) can increase creatine stores. From there, ISSN recommends a daily dosage of 3-5 g/day to maintain stores with up to 10 g/day indicated in some populations.

Creatine is generally considered safe and well tolerated (up to 30 grams per day for 5 years). However, rare cases have been reported for negative effects on kidney function. A healthcare professional can give more guidance for individual recommendations.

Beta-alanine

The ISSN recommends 4-6 g/day of beta-alanine for four weeks to see a positive effect on performance. Note beta alanine research is limited on effectiveness for exercise lasting 25 minutes or more.

A tingling sensation may be a rare side effect when taking beta-alanine, but dividing the dose to 1.6 grams (or lower) at a time can help limit this side effect.

Protein

The amount of protein generally recommended for healthy people ranges from the RDA of 0.8g/kg per day to as high as 2.0g/kg per day in highly active populations. Choosing protein from whole food sources will not only help you meet your daily protein needs, but will also provide additional nutrients to benefit health. 

Protein supplements may be a convenient way to boost daily intake, but they should not take the place of food to meet daily protein needs. Protein shakes can be convenient before or after exercise, but whole foods can also provide nutrients needed to support workout goals.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate intake recommendations differ before, during, and after exercise. Most often, a range of one to four grams carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight is recommended in the one to four hours leading up to exercise. Carbohydrate recommendations for during exercise range from 30-60 grams per hour depending on time and intensity. Finally, recommendations for carbohydrate intake after exercise vary depending on recovery time and other individual factors.

Additionally, active people and athletes may benefit from a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrates due to their potential to boost performance. Ideally, carbohydrates in the diet should come from whole food sources when possible as well as those with minimal added sugars.

Caffeine

Caffeine intakes of 3-6 mg/kg body weight in the 60 minutes prior to exercise have shown to have positive effects on performance. Any higher amounts of caffeine will likely not have added benefit to your workout and can increase risk of negative side effects.

How Much Is Too Much?

The quantity that is considered to be too much will vary depending on the supplement you choose. The following list provides an overview of the upper limits for each type of supplement.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are tightly regulated in healthy people. While there’s no Tolerable Upper Intake Level identified for sodium and potassium, other electrolytes lost in sweat, including magnesium, calcium, and chloride, do have limits considered to be safe. For example, it’s recommended that calcium intakes do not exceed 2,000-3,000 mg/day depending on age and sex.

The upper limits for chloride and magnesium are 3.6 g/day and 350 mg respectively. Quantities in electrolyte supplements vary making it important to review labels prior to consumption.

Protein

Upper limits on protein are not available due to the lack of research indicating a maximum intake in healthy populations. It is recommended to stay in the ranges from the RDA of 0.8g/kg per day to as high as 2.0g/kg body weight for protein. Getting more than this amount is likely not beneficial.

Carbohydrate

Similar to protein, there is not an identified upper limit for carbohydrate intake in healthy populations. If you are supplementing carbohydrates before or during exercise, it may take some trial and error to determine how much and what type of carbs are best for your needs.

Creatine

Creatine has shown to be safe and effective when taken at the recommended dosage with a maximum dosage of 30 grams per day for up to five years showing no adverse health effects.

Caffeine

The ISSN recommends no more than 9 mg/kg body weight of caffeine due to the potential for adverse side effects. Additionally, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a maximum daily intake of 400 mg caffeine for healthy adults. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding as well as children and adolescents have lower safety thresholds and should use caution when consuming supplements or other sources of caffeine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What supplements will help me lift heavier weights?

    Eating a diet that meets energy and nutrient needs is the first step to boosting performance during a workout. Some supplements may play a role in increasing performance when weight-lifting. For example, caffeine before a workout has shown to have an effect on the central nervous system and may make it easier to workout harder or for longer which can help to build muscle.

    Additionally, research shows that creatine supplements have an effect on creatine availability which in turn influences muscle endurance. Finally, taking carbohydrates and replacing electrolytes during high-intensity exercise may ahelp you get a harder or longer workout done.

  • If my budget is tight, which workout supplements should I prioritize?

    The number one priority for boosting performance during a workout is diet. Fiske works with clients on multiple aspects to their diet to optimize performance versus prioritizing supplements when considering budget constraints. 

    “I usually start with protein needs and work with my client on spacing intake evenly throughout the day,” she says. “We build meals and snacks by adding appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, ample fruits and veggies ("color"), and fat for cooking and flavor.”

    These diet modifications can often have a more significant impact than many supplements and can be more cost-effective. “For many individuals, adjusting what they're already doing makes a significant impact with minimal effort,” says Fiske.

  • Do I really need to take creatine?

    Creatine is a supplement that may be beneficial for people looking to build lean muscle mass, however it isn’t required for everyone. Many people can benefit from optimizing their diet to ensure adequate energy intake in addition to meeting protein needs. Nutrient timing before, during, and after exercise can also provide performance benefits as can prioritizing recovery and sleep.

  • Are there different workout supplements that are beneficial for men versus women?

    Individuals have different needs based on a variety of factors like body size, age, menstruation status, and/or if pregnant or lactating. For this reason, it’s important to look at supplementation on an individual basis.

    “Men usually have higher energy (caloric) needs than women and higher protein needs,” says Fiske. Women should also consider factors such as menstruation which can impact iron needs as well as energy needs. Other nutrients like calcium should also be considered as needs are greater in women versus men.

  • Which workout supplements should I take if I’m a beginner to exercise?

    “A common myth about working out/being physically active is that it requires additional fuel (calories and protein mostly) and supplements. For the majority of recreationally active individuals this is not the case,” says Fiske. Some supplements may be appropriate and effective in untrained people like caffeine, but for the most part ensuring you’re eating a balanced diet is the best approach to supporting your workout efforts.

    “The number one factor that determines if someone will see benefits to being physically active is consistency. No supplement, drink, or pill will replace consistency,” says Fiske.

    Supplements aren’t required for physically active people, including beginners. However, the decision to supplement as well as the need for supplementation depends on individual needs. “Supplementation is often highly individualized depending on the athlete’s goals, fitness and diet background, and overall health,” says Caslin. 

    She adds, “Recreational and beginner athletes should focus on eating a healthy balanced diet, drinking enough fluids, and healthy sleep habits before adding any supplements. Once they nail those things down, they can focus on nutrient timing (pre/post workout fueling, protein and carb intake, recovery, etc.) if needed.”

  • Which supplements should I take if I workout everyday?

    Unfortunately, there is no single workout supplement that is best for everyone. It’s important to consider individual needs in addition to the duration and intensity of a daily workout before adding supplements. Daily workouts that are lower intensity or shorter length may not require supplementation whereas higher-intensity or longer-duration workouts may benefit from the addition of a supplement to boost performance.

    Individual factors like diet, age, health status, and performance goals will also play a role in the decision to add a supplement to boost performance.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Allison Knott, MS, RDN, CSSD is a sports dietitian with experience working with recreational triathletes and runners. She’s a freelance writer and owner of Anew Well Nutrition, a virtual consulting practice with a focus on fitness and performance nutrition.

34 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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