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Believe it or not, 99.43% of bodybuilding supplements are essentially useless.
Luckily for you, we’ve reviewed the scientific literature to help you find out which supplements are worth buying and which are just a waste of your money
We have broken down these supplements into two: general health and performance-enhancing. It means that you'll get a good idea on which supplement to buy whether you want to be more powerful at the gym or you just want to be healthier in general.
Top Vegan Performance-Enhancing Supplements (2020)
Best Testosterone Booster
1. Vegan BCAAs
Featuring a blend of Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Glutamine, and Coconut Water Extract, Transparent Labs’ BCAA supplement is my personal favorite on this list.
According to its manufacturer, this unisex BCAA product is ideal for fitness fans who want to stimulate vegan protein synthesis, speed up muscle recovery post-workout, reduce fatigue, and speed up sugar absorption in the muscles during a workout.
This helps with muscle growth and muscle mass gains after a trying workout.
The weird flavors are also a nice touch, with “Strawberry Lemonade” and “Blue Raspberry” not being common flavors in the supplementation world.
Creatine is perhaps the best-known and most well-researched nutritional supplement. Here's a brief overview of this common gym supplement:
Creatine is a molecule which your body naturally produces, acting as a place where your cells can store energy. Taking creatine supplements means that you’re basically filling up these energy-storing cells, helping to enhance cellular function when you’re lifting.
So what does this mean in practice?
I highly recommend that athletes eating a plant-based diet should supplement themselves with vegan creatine. This is because creatine only occurs naturally in animal products like eggs and meat, so there is no plant-based source of creatine in an everyday diet.
Compared to meat-eaters, vegans have been shown to have lower measured creatine levels, however, when they take supplements, they see a huge increase in muscle concentration.
This means that creatine supplements can have even more benefits for us, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer - get yourself some vegan-friendly creatine supplements. For myself personally, I take 5 grams every day.
3. Vegan Protein Powder
High-quality vegan protein powders are not just supplements, but can often act as meal replacement too due to their nourishing properties. They are extremely effective and convenient way of making sure that you get enough protein on a plant-based diet.
There are many different sources for acquiring vegan-friendly protein, such as rice, peas, hemp, soy, and many more. If you’re looking to build muscle mass in particular, then I would recommend a pea protein supplement due to its BCAA content.
Personally, I would struggle to get my macros every week without a good vegan mass gainer or protein powder by my side.
It’s one of the most essential vegan supplements, especially if you’re an athlete and/or bodybuilder.
4. Caffeine (or Pre-workouts)
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients of vegan pre-workout supplements, they all seem to have been designed for male bodybuilders who want to build muscle fast.
Not only are the doses very high, but the ingredients themselves will encourage mass gain. But what about women who just want some extra energy at the gym to work harder and lose more weight without increasing muscle size?
With Powher, you have the solution you’re looking for.
Made with ENXTRA, it provides a powerful alternative to caffeine so you avoid those jitters.
However, you still want to avoid this stuff late in the evening to not disturb your sleep. OXYJUN is extracted from the Terminalia Arjuna tree and has been proven to increase VO2 max by 5%. The flavor is also surprisingly refreshing, so no more pinching your nose to gulp it down.
You can also try 4-gauge pre-workout supplement as an alternative.
Want to know about pre-workout side effects? Read about it here.
The link between testosterone and the male sex drive is indisputable but there are also strong and provable links between it and the ability to build and maintain muscle mass.
Whilst anything even approaching the steroid levels of testosterone boosting are still a strict no-no there are some more natural options that could provide that extra edge you need in the gym.
Centrapeak doesn't claim to be a magic pill, its claims are quite modest but also measurable.
This t-booster focuses on cognitive wellbeing, enhanced energy levels, and a natural testosterone boost that can help your exercise regime as much as your bedroom antics.
These easy to swallow pills target cortisol levels to reduce stress, improve mental focus, and bolster your energy levels allowing you to push yourself to your limits.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid which occurs naturally in our bodies, being turned into carnosine once our bodies digest it.
Carnosine acts as a buffer for acid, helping to protect your body from excess lactic acid which is produced when we exercise intensely, making us feel weak and sore.
Beta-alanine levels thus help to raise your intramuscular carnosine levels, positively affecting your endurance when lifting.
This offers several benefits to plant-based athletes, including:
Do bear in mind that you might feel a tingling or itching sensation in your hands or other parts of your body when you take beta-alanine supplements. This is a harmless side effect called “paresthesia,” so don’t worry about it unless it’s causing you problems.
Here's a good vegan product if you want to introduce beta-alanine into your supplement regimen.
7. Citrulline Malate
Citrulline malate is a compound consisting of citrulline, a non-essential amino acid.
Upon ingestion, this compound stimulates the production of arginine, which in turn boosts levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an effective vasodilator, meaning that it widens your blood vessels (5).
If your bloodstream has higher levels of nitric oxide, it will result in increased blood flow, helping to supply your muscles with the blood they need when you’re pumping. (For more nitric oxide supplements, check the list here)
Hence why this ingredient is typically included in pre-workout formulas, it can help you to look awesome at the gym.
Top Vegan Supplements For General Health
We should begin with one of the most essential components for vegans and vegetarians:
It is vitally important to take a B12 supplement.
Vegan diets don’t contain any reliable sources of B12, a vitamin which is essential for good health and energy. It must, therefore, be consumed artificially, usually in the form of a vitamin or foods which have been fortified with the vitamin.
Any doctor who regularly works with patients on a plant-based diet will tell you how important B12 is for people who don’t consume animal products. As well as in fortified foods, B12 can be taken as an oral or sublingual pill (1000 mcg). The pill form of B12 should be taken every few days.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an interesting one. Vitamin D is known for its hormone-esque qualities, as well as its adorable nickname “the sunshine vitamin.” This is because it is naturally produced by people who get a lot of sun exposure all the time.
However, the more bioactive form, which is known as vitamin D3, is not found reliably in any plant sources.
This means that for vegans to get the Vitamin D that they need, they may have to consider sunbathing. Alas, if you’re reading this in Alaska or Minnesota, your chances of year-round sunbathing are slim at best.
There are many health benefits associated with vitamin D in high quantities, including a reduction in mortality, which is always an added bonus.
If you want to get as much Vitamin D as possible without tanning or eating animal products, I recommend taking a 2000 IU vegan vitamin D3 supplement every day.
3. Algae-Based Omega-3
Despite their unappealing name, Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to our good health. Luckily, a plant-based diet can supply Omega-3 in a form known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is found in various vegan foods.
This includes flax, hemp seeds, chia, macadamia nuts, and walnuts. So if this is the case, then why do you need an Omega-3 supplement derived from algae?
As it turns out, ALA is not the only form of Omega-3 fatty acid out there. EPA and DHA are 2 additional forms of Omega-3 fatty acid, and it has been suggested that they help to prevent heart disease, reduce inflammation, increase brain health, and keep you cognitively sharp for longer.
These 2 forms of the acid are found in fatty fish, although vegans are able to take an algae-based supplement which is completely plant-based.
It has been shown that people eating a plant-based diet have low baseline levels of these 2 fatty acids, which is why it’s recommended that you take one of these algae-based omega-3 supplements once a day.
If you’d rather not take this supplement, make sure that you get plenty of ALA from sources like chia seeds and flax seed.
You may remember it as something you played around with in science class, but iodine is an essential part of a healthy diet.
Sadly, many vegans end up neglecting it. Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid functioning and could result in hypothyroidism if you don’t take enough of it.
For those who only eat plants, you will only get iodine from plant foods which grew in iodine-rich soil. As you may have guessed, this is not the easiest thing to keep track of. As a result, there is no reliable plant source of iodine.
You must either rely on iodized salt or take a vegan iodine supplement if you want to get your fix.
Both of these can work, although the salt option isn’t ideal if you’re trying to limit for salt intake for health reasons. Some people believe that seaweed is a good vegan source of iodine, but it can actually contain levels considered toxic.
Are There Any Vegan Magic Pills?
Yes, that was a rhetorical question. But just to make one thing clear from the get-go:
There are no magic pills or shortcuts when it comes to achieving your health goals, building an impressive physique, or getting stronger.
Proper diet and training should always be the #1 priority, for good reasons.
First, get the basics right:
That entails eating mostly nutrient-dense whole foods, hitting your calories and macros consistently every day, going to the gym and putting all of your efforts into adding both weights and reps to exercises, and that's what will give you 90-95% of results.
Whether you take beta-alanine or not doesn't matter if your nutrition and training aren't en pointe.
With that out of the way, the right vegan supplements can indeed be quite helpful. But you also have to take the right approach to supplementation. Throwing spaghetti (supplements) against the wall (in your body) and seeing what sticks is not a good way of doing things.
Every supplement or ingredient you choose to put in your body should serve a specific function:
Notice the choice of words. 'Fill in nutritional gaps' and 'a slight edge.' Nowhere did I say that supplements should serve as substitutes for whole foods or that they will magically transform you into Arnold Schwarzenegger.
They are what the term 'supplements' implies, things that supplement an already-sensible vegan diet.
The Bottom Line
Apart from these supplements, you might want to check out these too:
Hopefully, you now have a better grasp of what vegan supplements are available and how they work!
Want to know some vegan bodybuilders? Check out our article here.
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