Science Supports Strength Supplements

By: Tim Rigby (Courtesy of Inside Fitness)

Many decades ago, after the Big Bang of sports supplements kicked off the industry, there were some newly developed products touted as significant muscle builders, strength boosters or fat burners.  In many cases though, the research behind them was speculative and sloppy, rather than being profound and objective. We’re now approaching late 2019, and the full myriad of the supplement industry now bears intense scrutiny and is supported by scientific research with respect to legitimacy and efficacy.  You can tell the worthiness of a supplement by its staying power, which is why protein, creatine, arginine, caffeine, tyrosine and BCAA's have lasted the test of time.  These have all been researched and tested extensively – simply put, they work.  In case you did not know some of the pertinent, recent research behind commonly consumed supplements, here’s but a small sampling:


It’s one thing for an individual scientific study to support the legitimacy of a supplement, but when a large, contemporary meta-analysis cultivating several studies and deriving more in-depth conclusions supports the effects of supplemental protein, you know there’s good reason for fitness athletes to consume it.

Key Finding:  Scientists Morton, Murphy et al. recently reported in a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that post-exercise supplemental protein consumption is unequivocally responsible for increases in strength and muscle growth.  It was also noted that these two effects were amplified in subjects who had previous resistance training experience.  In other words, protein isn’t something that simply works best for beginners.  Intermediate and advanced level athletes also reap the slate of fitness benefits from supplemental protein.


First developed as a sports supplement in the early 1990s, creatine in many forms (in particular, monohydrate) has become the go-to supp for power, strength and muscle-building.  Over the years, other forms such as alkaline and buffered creatine have been developed, and the results have been very positive.  Study upon study has proven the significant differences in power initiated by creatine, which is why it’s the darling of strength athletes in football, hockey and weightlifting. 

Key Finding:  Did you know, however, that recent research suggests the long-term benefits of creatine are amplified through post-workout consumption?  Researchers Antonio and Ciccone contrasted the effect of peri-workout (before and after) consumption in a recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.  When combined with resistance training, parameters like one-rep maximal bench press were shown to be most augmented through post-workout creatine consumption.


You hear the expression “it’s all about the pump” quite often in fitness circles.  This refers to the phenomenon of blood pumping to your muscles during and after resistance training, which sets the course for muscle growth.  The amino acid arginine has been applied to a variety of uses over the years, including erectile dysfunction.  For decades now, it’s been scrutinized as a muscle builder and time after time it passes the test.

Key Finding:  A very recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted by Pahlavani, Entezari et al. examined the effects of two grams daily of arginine versus a placebo and once again the results were excellent for arginine.  Statistically significant improvements to sports performance were found in the arginine group, even when all factors were taken into consideration.  Arginine can boost both your strength and endurance even without any extraneous weight gain, according to the study.

If you’re looking for an added dimension to your training for more efficient gains in power, strength and muscle-building, supplements are scientifically documented to be the way to go.  If you’re still even slightly skeptical, simply consider that the tried-and-true supplements which have been around for decades are the most likely to yield great results.  Over time, they’ve been investigated in more detail, plus there’s been greater opportunity for user feedback.  Thanks to the internet as a resource, any supp user can quickly access a full encyclopedia of scientific research supporting the idea that strength supplements work effectively.

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