In the current fitness world, there is a slew of fitness products that claim to be the missing link in your workout. They lead you to believe that you can never obtain that "ripped" physique without their "weird little secret". It's a load. Technically, you can become phenomenally fit without any products at all, as long as you have a proper diet and exercise regularly. Unfortunately, very few of us have the appropriate time to commit to planning the proper diet, obtaining the ingredients, preparing the meals, and finding time to workout in the busy world we live in today. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of products out there to get you what you need in order to be optimized to get fit.
First thing is first, you need multivitamins. I don't mean the "one pill a day" crap. Those multis have poor absorption rates and don't provide everything you need in a performance multivitamin. When selecting a multivitamin, you must realize that none of them are perfect for everyone, but there is bound to be at least a few that are perfect for you, unless you have some medical condition (that should be addressed by your physician). If you are serious about getting fit, it would best serve you to get a performance multi like Animal Pak or Optimum Nutrition Opti-Men (or Opti-Women). Both of these multivitamins are very effective training multivitamins and get your body what it needs to properly fuel and rebuild. You couldn't do a puzzle without all the pieces, right?
Another important part of your supplement stack should be your protein. Many people think that eating a lean burger after a workout is sufficient to fuel recovery. However, meats have a slow digestion rate and it takes your body longer to extract the protein from the meat. That does not mean to skip out on the lean meats and use only fast-digesting proteins. There is a time and place for all proteins. For the sake of post-workout recovery, whey protein is invaluable. Typically, it takes about 45 minutes for your body to absorb the protein in whey. This means that your body is getting a high amount of protein (typically 22 grams or so) in a short amount of time to give to the muscles that it rebuild. If you do not use a recovery, your body isn't rebuilding in an optimized manner meaning that you are getting less from your workout than you could be with whey. Since this question gets asked a lot, it is important to note that recovery proteins should be taken within an hour after a workout. One more thing to know about whey protein is that whey is a milk-derived protein and will trigger dairy allergies. It does not always bother lactose-intolerant people, but it many times it does. If you are lactose intolerant, use caution when taking whey. If you have a dairy allergy, DO NOT use whey protein. If you happen to be allergic to dairy products, you can always use soy protein as your source for recovery. It is not optimized for recovery, as it takes a little longer to absorb the protein, but it is definitely faster than a steak dinner or an egg protein.
As far as other core-essential supplements to add to your stack, it's not a bad idea to incorporate fish oil for heart and joint health. The daily consumption of fish oil can drastically increase the amount of years in your life that you can remain active. After all, heart disease is the number one killer in America, so why not take preventative measures?
No matter how old you are, it is always a good idea to take a joint supplement. For instance, GNC's "Triflex" is probably one of the absolute best joint products on the market. It contains glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, Hyaluronic Acid, and if you get the sport blend, it also totes a pretty strong joint cushioning blend. Basically, this product is a joint super-pill. If you are young and think "Hell, I don't have achy joints. Why should I take a joint supplement?" Well, if you'd like to keep that ache away, take the joint supplements as a preventative measure. It goes a long way to be prepared.
What has previously been talked about is the "essentials" stack. It has what you need to hit the road running when it comes to intense training. Most anything else would simply be too minute to justify the purchase, unless you are talking about pre-workouts. Pre-workouts are incredibly potent and effective energizers that get you pumped for your workout. While they all aim to do the same thing, many go in different avenues to do it. For the sake of this article, I'll generalize into two categories: Stimulant based and N03 based (despite that being way too general). Stimulant based pre-wrokouts typically employ caffeine, or some other form of a stimulant, as the main energy booster combined with creatine, beta alanine, and niacin. While many products have way more ingredients than that, those are the ones that show up regularly in most stimulant based pre-workouts. Most of the stimulant based pre-workouts are very good about preventing the shakes, but since it is a stimulant there is usually a crash. The other ingredients in stimulant based pre-workouts are typically felt way more than the stimulant itself with the exception of creatine. Beta alanine is a very powerful pre-workout ingredient. It pulls the lactic acid out of the muscles to allow you to continue working out past your normal time of fatigue. However, as it does this, you will itch and burn pretty significantly. Many people love this "on fire" sensation when it comes to intense training, so don't be put off by it until you try it. Another powerful pre-workout ingredient is niacin. This ingredient gives you a powerful pump and oxidizes your blood as well as gives you a "flush". This is not "no-flush" niacin, so if you are sensitive to niacin and develop red spots and burn while taking it, caution should be exercised before taking it. N03 pre-workouts are a much different beast when compared to stimulant based pre workouts in that they typically do not give you an energy boost. Their main goal is to increase your endurance by adding extra oxygen to your blood. This pre-workout is very effective for long distance runners and swimmers (speaking from experience). However, many people don't like the fact that you cannot "feel" it, but just because you can't feel it doesn't mean it's not working. To sum it up in a grossly generalized manner: stimulant based pre-workouts are great for intense training sessions in the gym and N03 pre-workouts are great for endurance training. It is possible to combine the two, but some N03 pre-workouts contain stimulants as well, so take extra care to not take too many stimulants as it can unsafely raise your heart rate.
This article was designed to inform you about what you really need when it comes to supplementing your workout. Everything mentioned (with the exception of pre-workouts) are absolutely necessary. Pre-workouts are simply a nice luxury to help you squeeze more out of your workouts. Get out there and train! But not without your supplements!