Fitness regimes and workouts like Crossfit are designed to challenge the body for visible differences and clear improvements. Working with a personal trainer can also be uniquely challenging as you target your problem areas and work towards your individual goals. While its not uncommon to see gym-goers drinking protein shakes or taking supplements at the gym, others might wonder ‘are supplements really worth it?’ If you’re not taking supplements, you might wonder if you need them. Here we look at the characteristics, benefits and drawbacks of some of the most popular supplements so you can ascertain whether they’re right for you.

Protein Shakes

Many serious gym goers swear by protein shakes, and the ubiquitous shakers can be found in any gym around the country. But are protein shakes really necessary? The primary ingredient in most protein shakes is whey protein, a type of fast-absorbing protein that can be rapidly incorporated into muscle. It sounds great for those who want to bulk up and build muscle fast.

But what many don’t realize is that the majority of Americans already eat too much protein in their daily diets. Whey protein is also present in many protein rich natural foods. However, protein shakes can still be a preferred choice for taste and convenience.

For best muscle building results consume a protein shake or a high protein food within a 30 minute window before or after a workout.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

Branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are marketed as a more potent and concentrated version of whey protein. BCAA’s are the key building blocks that are incorporate into muscle in our body.

While it’s tempting to think that greater benefits are attainable with a more concentrated product, for most people there won’t be much additional benefit gained from taking BCAA’s over ordinary protein supplements or protein rich natural foods.

Multi-Vitamins

Multivitamins contain a number of vitamins and minerals that are essential for the body. Multivitamins are often seen as the ‘silver bullet’ to make up any deficiencies in the diet. However for many people multivitamins are not necessary and may do more harm than good. If your doctor has recommended a vitamin supplement or you are on a strict diet, it may be more beneficial to supplement that individual vitamin or mineral. Vitamins and minerals that often need to be supplemented include iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. But if you have no deficiencies and eat a balanced and varied diet with all the food groups, you shouldn’t need multivitamins.

Performance Enhancers

Performance enhancers are often chosen to help boost energy and get more out of a workout. They may contain a whole range of supplements and stimulants, the effect of which may not fully be known. Performance enhancers are generally not recommended and can even be dangerous when used incorrectly or in excess. It’s best to listen to your body, and use the motivation of your personal trainer to boost your energy, and simply rest your body if you’re tired.

Whether or not you want to use a supplement for your workout ultimately depends on your individual choice. Discuss your supplement choice with the fitness professionals at your local gym or a personal trainer for individualized advice.