When it comes to workout supplements, we’re now spoilt for choice. Most health food stores are overflowing with products designed to help you with everything from burning fat to building mass. There is also a wide range of specialist products designed to help serious gym-goers achieve specific goals.
In many ways, having such a choice is a great thing. However, it can make planning your supplement stack tough. While you can always stick to the classics, this could mean missing out on gains. On the other hand, using a bunch of specialist products could be quite an expensive exercise.
Generally speaking, you should tailor your supplement stack to suit your fitness goals and current training style. As such, it should respond to changes in your routine and adapt to suit any new requirements. It should also be specifically designed to boost your performance and help you achieve your desired results (whatever they may be!).
Based on these criteria, we believe creatine is the best workout supplement for 2021. We know that after the difficulties of 2020, many people are looking to rebuild and come back strong this year. However, we also know that some are struggling to find focus and motivation, which is where creatine supplements can help.
Here we look at why we think creatine is the best workout supplement for 2021. We go into what creatine does and why you would take it. We also outline what you should look for in a creatine product.
What makes it the best workout supplement for 2021?
Creatine is an important amino acid. The body naturally produces it by synthesising glycine and arginine, and it’s mostly found in muscle cells. It’s also often taken as a supplement to help boost the body’s overall creatine levels.
Creatine supplements have become quite popular with a wide range of sportspeople thanks to the range of benefits they provide. Specifically, increased creatine levels have been shown to help:
- Boost energy levels and athletic performance: Creatine is a key energy source for your muscles, particularly during high-intensity exercise. As such, higher creatine levels give your muscles more fuel to burn. Depending on your training style, this could mean more total volume or heavier lifts.
- Increase muscle growth: In addition to helping increase your workload, creatine helps prime your muscles for extra gains. Specifically, higher creatine levels have been linked to raised levels of anabolic hormones and intracellular water. Creatine is also thought to lower your levels of myostatin, which is a protein that can inhibit muscle growth.
- Improve muscle health and post-workout recovery times: Creatine has been proven to have a positive impact on cell signalling. This can help with muscle recovery and repair and promotes muscle growth. Increasing your creatine levels also helps protect your lean muscle mass by reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown.
While these are always great benefits for any regular gym-goer, we feel they’re particularly useful right now. Whether you’re struggling to get back into your routine, feel like you’ve plateaued, or are just generally lacking energy, creatine could help.
For more information on creatine, including its benefits as a workout supplement, check out the truth about creatine.
How do I pick a creatine supplement?
As creatine is already quite a popular supplement, a wide range of products are currently available. These generally fall into one of three categories:
- Pure creatine: These are specialised products that provide the maximum dose of pure creatine. They are generally fairly cost-effective, provide the greatest control over your creatine dosing, and are easily added to your existing supplement stack. While there are a few options available, most research suggests creatine monohydrate is the most effective pure creatine supplement.
- Creatine blend: These products bring together multiple creatine hybrids to create a more holistic workout supplement. While they tend to be more expensive than pure products, they can also provide additional benefits. MAX’S Creatine X8 is a great example of a highly effective creatine blend.
- Supplement blend containing creatine: These products bring together creatine and other popular ingredients (e.g. whey protein), to create more of an ‘all-rounder’ workout supplement. They are a great option if you want to minimise the number of products in your supplement stack. For example, MAX’S SuperSize ULTRA blends creatine, whey protein, BCAAs and other ingredients into one super-charged mass gainer.
The best product for you will depend on your goals, needs, and budget. For example, if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to get the specific benefits of creatine, choose a pure product. Conversely, if you don’t want to work out the correct dosing of multiple products, a supplement blend might be best.
Another thing to note here is that creatine supplementation should start with a loading phase to get the greatest results. As creatine naturally occurs within the body, you need a larger initial dose to increase your intramuscular creatine levels. With this in mind, for the first five days of taking creatine, you should take 3 – 4 times your maintenance dose.
Then, once your creatine levels have increased, you can scale your daily supplement dose back to a maintenance amount. This will usually be 3 g – 5 g per day, but the exact ideal dose will depend on your size.
What other supplements should I consider?
As previously noted, the specifics of your supplement stack can be a personal thing. What you take needs to be tailored to your unique goals and requirements and could change over time.
That being said, there are two basic workout supplements we believe most people would benefit from. These are:
- High-quality whey protein: This is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Whey protein is the basis of most people’s supplement stack and provides a myriad of benefits. If you want to get even more from your whey, try a specialised protein blend (e.g. MAX’S Super Shred)
- BCAAs: This can make a major difference to your post-workout recovery time. BCAAs are the perfect complement to creatine, further boosting energy levels and helping get the most out of each workout. If gaining lean muscle is your goal, look for a product with higher levels of leucine (like MAX’S BCAA 10:1:1).
Still not sure what workout supplements you should be taking? Check out our pieces on the best supplements for bodybuilding and muscle growth and the best weight loss supplements for men.