Supplement Guide for Powerlifting
Powerlifting is a sport that consists of performing three main lifts; squat, bench press, and deadlift. 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 top supplements for strength. 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:
- Increased strength
- Improved athletic performance
- Improved endurance
- Better post-workout recovery
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved immune health
- Better nutrient uptake
- Increased protein synthesis
- Increased muscle growth
- Improved overall health
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 improving your athletic performance, boosting strength and energy, increasing nutrient absorption, preventing injury, and supporting overall health. What’s not to love? As stated, no single supplement can provide all of these benefits, but each offers several unique attributes that can help you reach your goals. We’ll go over the best supplements for powerlifting in the full guide.
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. Top muscle building supplements, such as whey protein, can help.
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. The best supplements for powerlifters can help increase your strength and endurance, boost physical performance, and 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 for powerlifting, such as whey protein, glutamine, BCAAs, etc can help prevent and reduce 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. Certain effective supplements for powerlifting, such as joint-support vitamins and multivitamins, can help to reduce the risk of injury.
There are certainly other reasons, but we’ve listed the key reasons why people who enjoy powerlifting should consider using supplements. Good powerlifting supplements can provide a wide range of helpful benefits. With that said, not all supplements are created equal! Be sure to read our list of the top supplements for powerlifters to get a better idea of which products are worth taking.
10 Most Effective Supplements to Take While Powerlifting
Now that you’ve read about the broad benefits of these types of supplements, it’s time to get into the details! Let’s take a look at the top 10 powerlifting supplements available today, and what each supplement offers.
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 Help Powerlifters
BCAAs are some of the best supplements for powerlifters because they can help improve your performance at the gym, as well as reducing your post-workout recovery time. In fact, BCAAs provide a wide range of benefits, such as:
- Helps extend endurance during workouts
- Helps delay muscle fatigue
- Promotes protein synthesis
- Improves recovery
- Speeds up recovery time
- Helps increase muscle mass
- Prevents muscle damage and improves muscle repair
- Improves your workout results!
The benefits of BCAAs are well known without the fitness community, with millions 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 can help you work out for longer. If you take them after your workout, they can help you recover faster! You will find that most top strength supplements are best for either pre-workout or post-workout, while BCAAs can be great for both!
How to Take BCAAs
BCAA supplements come in concentrated powder form. Both flavored and unflavored 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, and this amount is generally safe to take more than once per day, if desired.
As mentioned, you can notice beneficial effects from taking BCAAs immediately before, during, or immediately after your workouts. Some people do all three – splitting their dose up between 2 or 3 servings surrounding their exercise sessions. The only thing to avoid here is taking BCAAs hours before, or hours after, your workout, as this will provide lesser benefits.
BCAAs Side Effects
BCAAs are one of the most effective muscle building supplements, and luckily, they also rarely cause side effects. A small percentage of users report feeling fatigue and/or loss of coordination, but these effects are rare.
Go To: Top 10 BCAA Supplements
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. Why is creatine so popular? Simply put, it can help you build more muscle, faster!
How Creatine Helps 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. This natural supplement can be a huge help in reaching your training goals – let’s take a look at some of the benefits of creatine:
- Improves muscle endurance
- Boosts strength temporarily
- Improves muscle pump
- Increases “short burst” energy
- Assists in production of ATP
- Increases protein synthesis
- Helps you build more muscle
- Helps you reach your goals faster
- Increases nutrient transport to muscles
- May help to enhance post-workout recovery
Essentially, creatine enhances your body’s natural ability to perform short-term, high-intensity exercise. First-time users generally report an almost immediate increase in strength and endurance, which can be attributed to creatine’s role in energy production and implementation.
If it sounds too good to be true, think about this: 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. In supplement form, all this strong supplement for powerlifting does is increase natural creatine stores, and replenish those stores that are lost during heavy exercise.
How to Take Creatine
Creatine is one of several top powerlifting supplements that is best to take every day. Even on days that you don’t plan on working out, you should still take your dose of 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 not necessary, but it 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, for periods up to 5 years. 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, which is part of the reason it’s one of the most effective supplements for muscle building. 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). These are fairly minor side effects for most folks, but it’s still good to be aware of the potential downsides of each supplement you’re considering.
Go To: Top 10 Creatine Supplements
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 can help reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery times.
How Glutamine Helps Powerlifters
Glutamine offers quite a few notable benefits. It aids in protein synthesis, enhances post-workout recovery, and more. Here are some of the key benefits of glutamine:
- Improves protein synthesis
- Reduces post-workout muscle soreness
- Speeds up your recovery time
- Gets you back in the gym faster
- Helps metabolize fat
- Increases human growth hormone production
- Supports muscle growth
- Helps improve workout results
Glutamine does not do much during your actual workouts, but we still consider it to be one of the best powerlifting supplements. It’s primarily used for helping speed up recovery time after your workouts.
How to Take Glutamine
Essentially, you’ll want to take a dose of L-glutamine 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. A typical serving will contain 5g of L-glutamine, and you can generally take this amount more than once per day, if needed.
Glutamine Side Effects
Side effects of this natural amino acid are typically quite mild, if they are experienced at all. Some folks have noticed gastrointestinal discomfort and headaches, but these effects are rare.
Go To: Top 10 Glutamine Supplements
4.) Whey Protein
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 the best powerlifting supplements.
How Whey Protein Helps 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. So, why is whey protein considered one of the top supplements for powerlifters? Here are just some of the benefits:
- Helps repair muscle tissue
- Speeds up recovery time
- Reduces post-workout muscle soreness
- Helps you build more muscle
- Helps you get adequate protein while limiting calorie/fat intake
- An easy source of high-quality protein
- Offers an excellent amino acid profile
- Whey is considered the best type of protein
- Improves workout results
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. A whey protein shake is an ideal post-workout snack that will help your muscles recover and grow, while reducing muscle pain and soreness. It’s also just a great tool to use to increase your overall protein intake in an affordable and easy manner.
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 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 increase muscular endurance. In fact, beta-alanine is so effective for increasing endurance that it’s one of the primary ingredients found in most pre-workout supplement blends.
How Beta-Alanine Helps Powerlifters
Beta-alanine is heralded for its ability to improve athletic performance and strength, extend endurance, and more. Here are some of the key beta-alanine benefits that are relevant to powerlifters:
- Increases “short burst” energy
- Improves muscular strength
- Improves muscular endurance
- Increases energy levels
- Increases carnosine levels
- Helps to increase muscle mass
- Helps you reach your goals faster
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 increase your body’s endurance when performing short-term, high-intensity exercises. In other words, it can help you hit those lifts hard and break through plateaus you may be experiencing. Because of how beta-alanine works, it’s an effective powerlifting supplement, but it wouldn’t necessarily do much for an endurance athlete such as a runner.
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, although research suggests that this amount is best split up over 2+ doses throughout the day. The goal is to elevate your natural beta-alanine levels, and keep them elevated. There is a common misconception that beta-alanine must be taken immediately before working out. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not necessary as long as you take your dose each day you plan to work out.
Beta-Alanine Side Effects
There is one very common side effect of beta-alanine, and that is a tingling/prickling sensation on the skin. This can be concerning at first, but it’s really nothing to worry about. 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.
6.) 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 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. Joint support vitamins provide the following benefits:
- Helps protect joint cartilage
- Helps lubricate joints
- Reduces the risk of joint pain
- Reduces the risk of injury
- Protects joints from damage
- Allows you to keep exercising as you age
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.
7.) Testosterone Boosters
What Are Testosterone Boosters?
Testosterone boosters are herbal supplements that aim to help boost 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. The herbal supplements we’ll be looking at here are simply a safe and legal way to boost your body’s natural production of testosterone.
How Testosterone Boosters 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. Boosting your T levels can have some profound effects, including:
- Increases energy
- Sharpens focus
- Improves strength
- Extends endurance
- Improves motivation
- Leads to strength gains
- Helps you reach your goals faster
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 can see profound benefits from these supplements. There is some research to suggest that even men with healthy levels may notice improvements at the gym after taking testosterone boosters, but the results of these studies are mixed.
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.
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.
Go To: Top 10 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 strengthen 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 Helps Powerlifters
Zinc is a mineral that is essential for countless processes in the body, so it’s actually difficult to explain all that it helps with. That said, for weightlifters the chief benefits include:
- May help to increase testosterone levels
- Improves protein synthesis
- Helps speed up recovery time
- Helps wounds heal faster
- Provides immune support
- Supports overall health
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. And, there is also some evidence that suggests that zinc improves recovery time after workouts. 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.
The immune support aspect of zinc should not be overlooked, either. Even getting a common cold can keep you out of the gym for a week or more, which can be a serious hinderance to your goals. By supporting the immune system, zinc reduces the risk of getting sick.
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.
Go To: Top 10 Zinc Supplements
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. They are great for supporting overall health and wellbeing.
How Multivitamins Help Powerlifters
Multivitamins would not generally be considered one of the strong powerlifting supplements, but they can be quite beneficial nonetheless. While multivitamins won’t boost your athletic performance or recovery in the same ways that some of our top recommendations will, they are still worthwhile to take, due to their various benefits such as:
- Improves nutrient absorption
- Improves daily nutrition
- Strengthens bones
- Improves muscle health
- Helps prevent injuries
- Prevents nutrient deficiencies
- Improves the quality of your sleep
- Supports healthy energy levels
- Supports overall health
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. They 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.
Go To: Top 10 Multivitamins for Men
What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is an amino acid that is primarily used as a weight-loss aid. It can be naturally synthesized in the body, and is naturally used in a variety of processes within the human body. In supplement form, L-carnitine can kick start fat loss, boost the immune system, and aid in strength gains. L-carnitine is one of the many good supplements for powerlifters that we recommend.
How L-Carnitine Helps Powerlifters
L-carnitine supplements are actually used for a huge range of reasons, but today we’re obviously here to talk about how this amino acid can benefit powerlifters. Well, it can help you shed fat, help you build muscle, and more. Here are some key L-carnitine benefits:
- Aids in fat loss
- Helps convert fat into energy
- Sharpens muscle definition
- Stimulates muscle growth
- Supports immune system health
- Supports bone health
L-carnitine does have some useful muscle-building properties, but where this amino really shines is in its ability to help shed fat. And sure, you could argue that the main goal of powerlifting is to increase strength and hit weight milestones, which is certainly true. However, when summer roles around, you may be interested in showing off the body you’ve worked so hard to build! L-carnitine can help your body shed excess fat, without losing significant amounts of muscle mass. It made our list of the best supplements for powerlifting because of its unique fat burning benefits.
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.
Now that you’ve read more about the best supplements for powerlifters, we hope that you feel prepared to make a purchase and start on your path to heavier lifts and bigger gains! Each product on this list is unique and useful in its own way, and many people like to use multiple products for optimal results. You may want to try a couple products in combination, or try one or two at a time to see what works best for you.
We also have more in-depth guides on each of these supplements if you’d like to read more. Feel free to explore the rest of our site, or bookmark this page to check back later. As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! Thanks for reading, and good luck hitting that next powerlifting goal!