Powerlifting is a sport that consists of performing compound lifts such as: squats, bench press, and deadlifts. In competitions, the winner will be the person who scores the highest total weight across all three lifts. As a hobby, powerlifting generally consists of training and attempting to set personal records for each of these lifts. Powerlifting is certainly different than bodybuilding, but the two hobbies share many similarities.
Whether you’re a newbie to the powerlifting world or you consider yourself a veteran, it’s important to have your diet and nutrition on track. Powerlifting is a great sport, but it can be hard on the body, and it requires quite a bit of time, dedication, and focus.
First and foremost, you should be following a proper diet for powerlifters. Next, you’ll want to ensure that you’re performing all the lifts correctly, to minimize the risk of injury while maximizing your results. And last but not least, you’ll want to consider adding some effective supplements for powerlifting to your diet.
Weightlifters and powerlifters alike know that supplements can help them reach their goals quicker in a variety of ways. In this guide, we’ll explain all about the best supplements for powerlifters, and how they can help with your strength training goals. Let’s dive right in and get started!
How Can Supplements Help Powerlifters?
Whether you’re a powerlifting competitor or you’re just entering the hobby, there are a lot of benefits to be gained from supplements. Each offers something unique, and many folks like to build a “stack” of multiple products for maximum results. Here are some of the benefits you can expect from good powerlifting supplements:
- Athletic performance
- Post-workout recovery
- Immune support
- Protein synthesis
As you can see, there are quite a few notable benefits! In short, the best supplements for powerlifting can help you reach your goals faster by helping your athletic performance, temporarily helping strength and energy, increasing nutrient absorption, helping you avoid injury, and supporting overall health.
Why Should Powerlifters Take Supplements?
If you’re a powerlifter, you know that this is a sport that requires a lot out of its enthusiasts. You’ll need to commit to spending hours at the gym each week; to dieting; to competing, and more. Basically, supplements help take some of that load off you by giving you a helpful edge over the competition (and your own limitations). Here are some reasons why powerlifters should consider taking supplements:
- Powerlifters need more nutrients – putting your body under intense strain by lifting huge chunks of metal day and in day out makes your body crave more of certain nutrients; namely, protein, amino acids, and certain vitamins/minerals. While a healthy diet can provide most of these nutrients, it can often be helpful to use health products to supplement your diet. For example, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that powerlifters consume between 0.68 and 0.91 g of protein per pound of bodyweight. This means that an average 180lb guy would need to be eating between 120 and 160g of protein per day – which is tough to do with food alone.
- Powerlifting is hard work – nobody is going to tell you that powerlifting is easy; if they do, they don’t know what they are talking about! Exponentially and continuously increasing strength takes a ton of time and dedication, not to mention physical strength and endurance. Supplements may help temporarily increase your strength, endurance and physical performance, and help improve the results you see from your efforts. They certainly won’t do the work for you, but these products make sure that you’re equipped with the tools you need to do your best.
- Powerlifting hurts – hitting that new personal best feels great. But you know what doesn’t feel great? Waking up the next morning with your muscles aching. Delayed onset muscle soreness is common amongst powerlifters, and although it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can certainly cause some discomfort. Many of the top supplements, such as whey protein, glutamine, BCAAs, etc can help muscle soreness, which makes it easier to go about your daily life, as well as reducing recovery time in between your workouts.
- Powerlifters are more prone to injury – because this sport involves lifting increasingly heavier and heavier hunks of metal, the potential for injury is always there. Powerlifters are generally more prone to exercise-related injury when compared to the average person and to other athletes.
There are certainly other reasons, but we’ve listed the key reasons why people who enjoy powerlifting should consider using supplements. Good supplements can provide a wide range of helpful benefits. With that said, not all supplements are created equal!
Supplements to Consider While Powerlifting
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs are a category of amino acids, known as “branched chain” amino acids. The name comes from the molecular structure of these particular aminos, but most people just refer to them by their shortened name of “BCAAs”. If you’re unfamiliar with amino acids, basically they serve as the building blocks of protein. Protein, and therefore amino acids, are vitally important to many aspects of overall health. The three BCAAs; leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are particularly important for muscle growth and protein synthesis.
How BCAAs May Help Powerlifters
The benefits of BCAAs are well known within the fitness community, with plenty of people using them every day as a way to improve the results of their efforts at the gym. BCAAs are also somewhat unique in that they are useful for several different aspects of the powerlifting process: if you take them before (or during) your workout, they may help you work out for longer. If you take them after your workout, they may help you recover.
How to Take BCAAs
BCAA supplements come in concentrated powder form. Both flavored and unflavored BCAA powders are available. The powder needs to be mixed with water or another liquid. There are also some BCAA capsules available, but most people prefer the powders. The typical serving size will contain somewhere between 2-6g of BCAAs.
BCAAs Side Effects
A percentage of users report feeling fatigue and/or loss of coordination.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic acid that is found naturally in the body. It’s stored primarily in muscle tissues, and plays an important role in how muscles function. Creatine can also be found in various food sources, but it’s primarily found in red meat and fish. Creatine is one of the most popular fitness supplements, exceeded in popularity only by protein powders.
How Creatine May Help Powerlifters
Creatine is a favorite of the fitness community due to its variety of useful benefits. Primarily, it’s used by weightlifters because creatine helps you gain muscle. Essentially, creatine enhances your body’s natural ability to perform short-term, high-intensity exercise. Creatine is already in your muscles naturally. The vast majority of our creatine that is ingested from our diets is stored, and used, in our muscles. Creatine is naturally used by our muscles to help create and use energy.
How to Take Creatine
The typical serving size is 5g, and creatine typically comes in a flavorless powder (although flavored versions are available, as well). To take the supplement, simply mix the recommended amount into a liquid, such as water or juice. Be sure to drink plenty of water with your dose. A lot of folks also prefer to cycle on and off creatine, taking it for a month or two and then taking a break of a couple of weeks. This is recommended by a lot of knowledgeable fitness experts.
You may have heard of a concept known as creatine loading, or you may not have. Either way, creatine loading is, essentially, taking large amounts (10-20+ grams) for the first 5-7 days, and then continuing to take the normal “maintenance dose” (typically 5g) each day. Scientific studies examining the efficacy of creatine loading vs. normal dosing have delivered mixed results; it’s not clear which is the “best” method to go about it.
Creatine Side Effects
Creatine is generally regarded as a safe supplement to take. Most users don’t report any significant side effects, but there are some common issues, including dehydration and bloating. Creatine essentially pulls more water and nutrients into your muscles. However, this also causes problems such as bloating (from the extra water weight), and dehydration (if you don’t increase your water consumption while taking creatine).
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid that is naturally found in high concentrations in our muscle tissues. It plays a vital role in muscle recovery, and can help both during and after your workouts. It’s a favorite of the powerlifting community for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it may help muscle soreness and recovery times.
How Glutamine May Help Powerlifters
Glutamine offers quite a few notable benefits. It aids in protein synthesis, may help enhance post-workout recovery, and more. Glutamine does not do much during your actual workouts, but we still consider it to be one of the best powerlifting supplements.
How to Take Glutamine
Essentially, you’ll want to take a dose of a glutamine supplement as soon as possible after working out. 30-60 minutes post-workout is an ideal range, but if you just plan on taking it as soon as you get home from the gym that’s a good rule of thumb.
Glutamine Side Effects
Some folks have noticed gastrointestinal discomfort and headaches.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a simple supplement that offers profound benefits. Basically, it’s just… well… protein! Whey is a byproduct of the process used to make cheese and other dairy products, and it is very rich in protein. Supplement manufacturers take this whey (which is a liquid initially) and process, dry, and package it. The end product is a white/beige powder that is typically anywhere from 70-90+ percent protein. To anyone who understands biology and/or nutrition, it’s easy to see why a affordable, easy to take source of high-quality protein is an obvious choice for our list of powerlifting supplements.
How Whey Protein May Help Powerlifters
Protein is, quite simply, an important component of every cell in the body. Your body uses protein for nearly everything – to build and repair muscle; to heal damaged tissue; to grow hair, skin and nails; to make hormones, and much more. The human body needs quite a bit of protein on a daily basis, but athletes – and powerlifters in particular – need much more than the average person.
In the powerlifting world, whey protein is primarily thought of as a recovery supplement. Whey digests quite rapidly, in as little as 20-30 minutes after consumption. This is ideal for strength trainers, as your muscles need protein and amino acids as soon as possible after working out in order to start the recovery process.
How to Take Whey Protein
As mentioned, whey is best to take immediately following your workouts. Some go as far as to take a pre-made protein shake with them to the gym, and consume it as soon as they hit the locker room. This is not strictly necessary, but in general, the faster you can get protein in your system after your workout, the better.
As for serving size, manufacturers typically include a specialized scoop in their product which helps you measure out the amount you should take. Each serving generally contains between 15 and 25 grams of protein, sometimes more. All you need to do is mix it into water, milk, juice, or a shake, and drink!
Whey Protein Side Effects
Another reason whey is so popular is that it typically does not cause side effects. However, remember that whey protein is derived from dairy, so if you are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy products, you may want to avoid whey protein. Some people have also reported feeling minor stomach discomfort, gas, etc. after taking whey.
What is Beta-Alanine?
Beta alanine is a modified version of alanine, which is a common amino acid. Beta-alanine is used quite commonly in the fitness community, primarily because it can help to muscular endurance. It is one of the primary ingredients found in most pre-workout supplement blends.
How Beta-Alanine May Help Powerlifters
Beta alanine is a great supplement for all types of athletes, but it’s in particular one of the really good supplements for powerlifters. Basically, beta-alanine works to temporarily increase your body’s endurance when performing short-term, high-intensity exercises.
How to Take Beta-Alanine
Beta alanine is available in pill/capsule format, but it most often comes in a powdered form that must be mixed into water. Doses range from 2-5 grams, typically.
Beta-Alanine Side Effects
There is one very common side effect of beta-alanine, and that is a tingling/prickling sensation on the skin. You can reduce this effect by taking smaller doses. Additionally, as your body becomes used to the supplement, this tingling sensation will be reduced or eliminated entirely.
Joint Support Vitamins
What Are Joint Support Vitamins?
Joint support vitamins are multivitamins that are specifically formulated to support joint health. These products generally contain a blend of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, but some commonly used ingredients are calcium, zinc, MSM, chondroitin, glucosamine, and others.
How Joint Support Vitamins May Help Powerlifters
While powerlifting is an enjoyable and healthy hobby, it can lead to some long-term health concerns. Primarily, the long-term health of joints and bones should be a concern. Lifting increasingly heavy weights can wear down cartilage and slowly cause damage to joints. It can also increase your risk of injuries.
Typically, when you think of the best powerlifting supplements, you tend to think about products that can help improve your performance at the gym, or help you recover afterwards. Joint support vitamins don’t really fall into either of these categories. Instead, powerlifters often take joint support multis as a way to protect the long-term health of their joints. It’s important for athletes to keep the long-term effects of their activities in mind.
How to Take Joint Support Vitamins
You’ll want to take joint support vitamins every day, regardless of your fitness activities on that given day. Additionally, it’s best to take them with food. Beyond that, simply follow the instructions found on your product packaging, and you’ll be good to go!
Joint Support Vitamin Side Effects
Most vitamins and minerals included in these support blends typically do not cause noticeable side effects. Some ingredients, such as chondroitin glucosamine, can cause some stomach-related issues such as nausea, gas, bloating, etc.
What Are Testosterone Boosters?
Testosterone boosters are herbal supplements that aim to help your natural testosterone levels. Testosterone is the key male sex hormone, but it’s also naturally present in women’s bodies (in smaller concentrations). This hormone plays a key role in a variety of aspects of your health, including sexual health, muscle building, energy levels, and more. It’s particularly important for athletes, as there is a close relationship between testosterone levels and your performance at the gym. Do note the difference between testosterone boosters, which are natural herbal supplements that we’ll discuss here, and illegal testosterone shots, which are often illegally used by athletes. We do not condone the latter and will not cover them on this site.
How Testosterone Boosters May Help Powerlifters
Testosterone is used in the body for a variety of reasons, but it’s closely related to energy levels, strength and endurance – particularly for men.
Now, if you have healthy testosterone levels naturally, you may not see much benefit from taking testosterone boosters. On the other hand, if you’re one of the millions suffering from low testosterone, you may potentially see benefits from these supplements.
How to Take Testosterone Boosters
Testosterone boosters vary in ingredient profile, potency, and other factors. Because of this, it’s important to follow the instructions found on your product packaging. Generally speaking, it’s best to take these products with food to improve absorption and reduce the risk of stomach discomfort. We also strongly recommend you speak with your doctor before taking these products.
Testosterone Booster Side Effects
Most T-boosters are made up of natural herbs that shouldn’t cause side effects, although reactions are always possible. Additionally, some people unfortunately react to increased testosterone levels in some negative ways, such as experiencing increased aggression or moodiness, although this is a side effect of testosterone itself rather than the actual supplements. Again, it is best to speak with your doctor before taking testosterone boosters.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a common mineral that is found in foods, supplements, multivitamins, and various other health products. It’s most commonly known for its ability to help the immune system, and is often included in cold remedy products. In reality, zinc plays a TON of roles in the body. You may not think of it as a strong powerlifting supplement initially, but it can actually be quite beneficial for powerlifting enthusiasts.
How Zinc May Help Powerlifters
Zinc levels in the body can affect testosterone levels, so people with low T-levels should consider adding zinc to their supplement routine. Additionally, zinc is closely tied with protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth. Plus, it’s a helpful mineral for a ton of aspects of overall health, and it’s also quite common to have a zinc deficiency.
How to Take Zinc
Zinc supplements are simple enough to take; just follow the dosage instructions on the product packaging, and take your dose with food.
Zinc Side Effects
As long as you take zinc as instructed, you shouldn’t experience any notable side effects. That said, some stomach issues, such as nausea and stomach upset, are relatively common.
What Are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are a very commonly used supplement that help you reach your daily nutritional needs. Basically, each multivitamin contains a good quantity of your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. They are designed to supplement your regular diet, ensuring that any “holes” in your nutritional intake are filled.
How Multivitamins May Help Powerlifters
Multivitamins can help make sure that you reach your daily nutritional goals, by helping to fill in the gaps of our modern diets. However, they are NOT meant to be a replacement for a healthy, balanced diet. You can’t fix a poor diet by adding a multivitamin; but you can improve upon a good diet by adding supplemental vitamins and minerals.
How to Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins are generally taken once per day, every day. Both men’s multivitamins and women’s multivitamins come in pill/capsule form, so they are pretty simple to take. It’s generally best to take them with food to optimize nutrient absorption. However, it’s best to avoid taking your multivitamin with calcium-rich foods, such as dairy, as calcium can interfere with the digestion of some nutrients.
Multivitamin Side Effects
So long as they are taken as directed, most of the time multivitamins will not cause unwanted side effects. However, headache, stomach upset and related problems are possible, particularly when the dose is taken without food.
What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is an amino acid that can be naturally synthesized in the body, and is naturally used in a variety of processes within the human body.
How L-Carnitine May Help Powerlifters
L-carnitine supplements are actually used for a huge range of reasons.
How to Take L-Carnitine
There are various types of L-carnitine supplements, with the most common forms being capsules and powder. Regardless of the format the supplement takes, it’s important to follow the dosage instructions and to not take more than recommended.
Additionally, it’s very important to take this supplement with food. L-carnitine cannot absorb properly on an empty stomach. Try to take your dose with a meal, or shortly after. Also, make sure the meal has a decent amount of carbohydrates, as that will aid in absorption of L-carnitine.
L-Carnitine Side Effects
Some commonly reported side effects include heartburn, nausea, and gastrointestinal issues. Side effects are more common when the supplement is taken on an empty stomach (which is not recommended). Take the serving with food, and do not take more than the recommended dose, and you shouldn’t notice any significant side effects.