A lot of people think that supplements are prohibitively expensive. And if you’re on a budget, you may find yourself passing them over, thinking of them as an unnecessary expense.
But the truth is this- while they may not be “necessary’, there are a lot of them that are not only hugely beneficial, but extremely cost effective as well.
In fact, if you’re a smart consumer and you know what to look for, getting a few quality supplements can even save you money in the long run.
Today we’re going to be talking about 6 supplement must-haves, even if you’re on a tight budget.
#1 Whey Protein
Let’s start with why it’s critical for your health and fitness goals. If you’ve been hitting the gym for a while now, you no doubt know that protein is vital to the muscle building process.
But in case you’re new, here’s a quick recap.
When you lift weights, sprint, or do any kind of anaerobic activity that puts stress on your muscle, this stress creates “damage” in the form of small tears. During the hours and days after your workout, your body attempts to repair that damage and “fill in” the tears.
One of the ways it does this is by taking protein in the food you eat, and breaking it down into compounds called amino acids. These amino acids repair the tears, which result in a muscle that becomes progressively bigger and stronger.
That’s “Protein 101” for you, and should be common knowledge to all lifters.
But many gym-goers don’t realize that there are other benefits to a high protein intake as well, and it’s not just for guys looking to get big and jacked.
One of these benefits is “satiety” (i.e. feeling full). While “a calorie is a calorie” from a thermodynamic standpoint, some types of calories are better than others at promoting a feeling of satiation. In a number of studies, a high protein diet has repeatedly beat out a low protein diet in this category.
And at the end of the day, the thing that usually kills diets in the long run in hunger. So if you’re attempting to lose weight (or even maintain your current weight), protein would be a good thing to start getting more of.
In addition to these benefits, it’s also been linked to the preservation of muscle. Any time you diet and cut calories to lose weight, you run the risk of losing muscle as well. This can be mitigated through lifting weights, but it can also be mitigated by consuming more protein, and research has shown that a high protein diet results in greater muscle retention in a calorie deficit.
So, given all these health benefits, why do you need a protein “supplement”? Can’t you just get the protein you need from food?
The answer is yes, however, a lot of people find that eating all that extra meat and dairy is not only a hassle, but an expensive hassle as well. By investing in a good protein supplement, you’re actually saving money in the long run.
For best results, go with a good quality whey supplement like Gold Standard Whey Protein. At £0.44 per serving, it’ll definitely save you some money on your meat bill every month.
Along with protein, creatine is one of the best bang for your buck muscle building supplements you can get your hands on.
When you work out, your body produces a series of muscle contractions. These contractions are generated by a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Creatine is an organic acid that helps produce ATP, improving the quality of your muscular contractions (and thus, your workout).
Creatine can be taken in a number of ways. Since it’s a naturally occurring compound, your body will produce a certain amount of it from scratch. It’s also found in a number of foods, including beef, chicken and fish.
But one of the best ways of taking creatine is in supplement form. 3-5 grams per day seems to be the optimal amount. A quality creatine supplement like Creatine Monohydrate Creapure will run you £14.99 for 250 grams. That works out to 50 servings at about £0.29 per serving.
You could also double up and take an All In One Protein supplement with whey and creatine to kill two birds with one stone.
In a perfect world, we would all get the vitamins and minerals we need naturally from our food and environment. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world- we live in a world rife with processed food, and one in which most of us spend our days sitting at a desk inside under fluorescent lights.
Not only is this lifestyle bad for our waistlines, it’s bad for our body and mind as well. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a huge, huge problem in the modern world, and one that most of us go through life completely unaware of.
While the list of potential deficiencies you may suffer from is extensive and could cover an entire article on it’s own, let’s talk about one of the most common- magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, and is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions. Because it’s so critical, it’s required in large quantities, and is found naturally in a number of the foods we eat, including nuts, black beans, fish, spinach and other leafy greens.
Unfortunately, because our diets are so poor, and because the body requires so much magnesium, the vast majority of us don’t get enough of it through our diets.
And if we go for long enough without getting sufficient quantities, we start to run into problems- BIG problems. These can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Muscle cramps
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
So, given that this mineral is so important, and given that it’s so difficult to get enough of it through diet alone, the solution many find most convenient is to get it in supplement form. And with so many forms of magnesium on the market, a months supply shouldn’t cost you any more than £15.
The most effective variations include:
1. Magnesium Oxide (one of the highest concentrations of magnesium per dose)
2. Magnesium Citrate (particularly beneficial for digestive health)
3. Magnesium Glycinate (particularly beneficial for sleep and mood disorders)
#4 Vitamin D
Along with magnesium, vitamin D is next up on the list of common deficiencies.
Vitamin D plays a number of roles in the human body, but its main function lies in keeping the bones strong and healthy, and absorbing calcium into the body. It also plays a huge role in boosting the bodies immune system and fighting off infections.
So, how does vitamin D deficiency usually happen? Like magnesium, a deficiency could be the result of a poor diet. Vitamin D is found in a number of healthy foods, including fatty fish, eggs and beef.
However, the main way that humans obtain the majority of their vitamin D is through exposure to the sun. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, a series of processes are kicked off which ultimately leads to Vitamin D production.
Ironically, the reason that so many of us are now deficient is because it’s not just sunlight that produces vitamin D- it’s the UV rays…yes, that’s right. The thing that we’ve been told for decades to avoid is actually the source of one of the most beneficial vitamins in the human body.
And unfortunately, just like magnesium, a deficiency can cause a LOT of problems. These include:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of cancer
- Decreased bone density
Fortunately, fixing this problem is usually relatively straightforward.
The first thing to do is to spend more time in the sun. And no, that doesn’t mean you should go tanning for hours at a time. 20 minutes per day of mild exposure will do the trick.
You should also be taking vitamin D supplements. Luckily, Vitamin D is even cheaper than magnesium. You can easily get a one month supply for under £5. Seriously.
We’ve talked about the role of protein in a healthy diet, now let’s switch gears and talk about fat. Because while it definitely gets a bad reputation in the media, fat is a critical part of a healthy diet, and something you need to make a priority.
With that said, the kind of fat you’ll benefit from is definitely a consideration. Donuts, for example, are loaded with trans fat, which does absolutely nothing beneficial for you.
Instead, you should focus on getting some saturated fat from animal products, and plenty of unsaturated fat from sources such as fish, oils, and nuts.
In particular, you should try really hard to get enough of one very specific type of fat- omega-3 fatty acid. This is referred to as an “essential” fatty acid, because your body a.) needs it to survive, and b.) can’t produce it from scratch. Which means you need to take it in through your diet.
Fortunately, omega-3 is found in quite a few foods, and the odds that you’re going to get so little that it will kill you are slim. However, it is certainly true that most people don’t get enough for optimal health.
A few of the benefits of omega-3’s include:
Reduced risk of coronary diseases
Improved cognition and mood
One of the ways to get more of these healthy fats in your diet is to consume more fatty fish. But an easier, and more cost effective way, is to take an omega-3 supplement like Omega 3 Softgels, which contains 1000mg of fish oil per serving. At £9.99 for 90 softgels, that works out to a measly £0.11 per serving- more than worth it given the benefits.
Last but not least, we have every coffee lovers favourite- caffeine!
That may come as a surprise to you that something many people consider a “drug” would be on our list of must-have supplements. However, you’ll be pleased to know that caffeine actually boasts an impressive list of benefits.
In moderation, caffeine has been shown to:
- Reduce your risk of stroke
- Improve memory
- (Potentially) lower your risk of diabetes
- (Potentially) lower your risk of Alzheimers
But the big benefits of caffeine for those of us that hit the gym are physical. Taken before a workout, caffeine stimulates the nervous system and ramps up adrenaline, resulting in a dramatic increase in performance.
In order to get the best results, it’s pretty straightforward- take caffeine before you work out.
There are a number of different way you can do this. One is by drinking a cup of good, old fashion espresso.
You could also take caffeine in pill form, or as part of a pre-workout supplement like Pre-Workout, which packs 250 mg of caffeine along with Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) for improved muscle development.
Remember, if you’re on a budget, you don’t need to have a ton of supplements in your arsenal- you just need a few quality ones.