When you hit the gym hard, it can be tempting to load up on every shiny tub of mysterious purple powder you can get your hands on in hopes it’ll turn you into vintage Schwarzenegger overnight. But rather than loading up on some generic “best supplements” just because they’re popular, it makes sense to identify your specific needs as an athlete, then address those issues first.
Are you a hardcore powerlifter? A physique-focused bodybuilder? A long-distance cyclist? All those endeavors require slightly different nutrient profiles—but it’s important to start with the fundamentals.
“The average guy doesn’t always need to take anything crazy,” says Kylene Bogden, M.S., a board-certified sports dietician at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. “If your diet is great and you’re sleeping well, it’s rare you’d need anything besides these select supplements.”
Oh, and one more thing: If you’re subsisting on late-night fries and couch pizza, fix that problem first. “Our rule is ‘food first,’” says Damon McCune, M.S., the director of performance nutrition for the athletics program at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas and a consultant to physique athletes and bodybuilders. “The number one thing I see across the board is people aren’t eating enough. This means they’re deficient in one or more nutrients because of that.”
So before you blow your next paycheck on some rattlesnake venom that promises to increase your bench press max (hint: it won’t), make sure you’ve got your nutrition plan down. If you’re still feeling sluggish in the morning or run-down after workouts—and your doctor gives you the go-ahead—consider taking these seven nutritionist-recommended supplements to get what you need.