Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain that Work for Men and Women | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain that Work for Men and Women

What are the best supplements for weight loss and muscle gain?  While supplement marketing companies might contend otherwise, I think there are only a few supplements that work.  Even then, you should consider whether the cost/benefit is really worthwhile.  Personally, I don’t think supplements are an integral part of any diet and exercise program.  However, they may help you accelerate results.  Just remember, the dirty little secret of supplements for weight loss and muscle gain is that you actually need to diet and exercise for them to be effective.  That being said, in my opinion, what follows are some of the best supplements for weight loss and muscle gain.

Supplements that Work for Men and Women

If you’re looking for a magic diet pill, you’ve come to the wrong place…and you’re probably embarking on a wild goose chase.  Check out this free report about what’s really lurking behind all that supplement company marketing: What They Never Want You To Know About Diet Pills.  If diet pills aren’t the answer, then what are the best supplements for weight loss and muscle gain?  The below supplements for men and women have been fairly well researched and their effects, both positive and negative, are well documented.  Generally speaking, if you don’t know what you’re putting into your body, then don’t put it into your body.

Best Supplements for Weight Loss

Caffeine: I recently started taking caffeine before my morning workouts.  I was a little nervous because I am not a coffee drinker and feel like too many people are dependent on caffeine.  Research has shown that caffeine may help with fat loss by releasing fatty acids into your bloodstream.  In this respect, pure caffeine is better than coffee.  Caffeine may also stimulate your central nervous system allowing for stronger muscle contractions.  For more information on caffeine, check out this article on How Caffeine Affects Fat Loss, Exercise Performance, and Health.

Capsaicin (Hot Pepper / Cayenne): I’ll be honest; I am not a huge fan of spicy foods.  Adding hot peppers to my diet had no appeal so this was an area where I felt like pill supplementation was necessary.  How does capsaicin help?  In short, research has shown that it may speed up your metabolism, shrink fat cells, and lower food intake.  If you’re interested, you can read more about How to Lose Weight Fast with Capsaicin.

Cinnamon: can something that tastes so good really be one of the best supplements for weight loss?  Yes it can!  There are numerous Health Benefits of Cinnamon including weight loss.  Essentially, cinnamon may result in better insulin control and less fat storage.  For me, it also controls food cravings since it leaves a nice taste in my mouth.  I like adding ½ a teaspoon to a protein shake.

Green Tea: I’ve never really been a fan of tea, but the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) compound has been shown to have weight loss benefits.  EGCG may result in an increased metabolism and reduced fat development as discussed in this article about EGCG and Weight Loss.

PAGG Stack: Touted as a replacement for the highly risky ECA stack (ephedrine, caffeine, aspirin) by Tim Ferriss of the 4 Hour Body, PAGG includes Policosanol, Alpha Liptic Acid (ALA), garlic extract, and green tea extract (EGCG, decaffeinated).  Policosanol is generally used to improve cholesterol but Tim found it effective for fat loss by taking it at bed time.  ALA is included for better carbohydrate absorption by storing them as muscle rather than fat.  Garlic supposedly improves cholesterol, blood pressure and fat storage. Green tea is included for the metabolism boosting effects noted above.  Overall, I’d rank this low on the list of best supplements for weight loss.  It’s very expensive for what I think is a minor benefit.  That being said, you can strategically use this for a couple months at a time to potentially accelerate fat loss and improve your overall health.

Protein: this is a macronutrient, not a supplement, but some people don’t get an adequate amount in their diet and may benefit from protein shakes.  Can protein help you lose weight though?  As you can read in this article about the Top 4 Reasons You Need Protein, the weight loss benefit may be the result of satiety, increased metabolic rate, muscle preservation, and using sugars for energy rather than storing them as fat.

Best Supplements for Muscle Gain

Creatine: I’ve written about creatine before and you can read why I think it is the Best Muscle Building Supplement.  It’s one of the better researched supplements with proven beneficial effects.

BCAAs: while I don’t go so far as to believe claims that branched chain amino acids build excess muscle mass, I find that they are ideal for someone who performs fasted training.  Here is a good article on BCAAs and Dieting.  Additionally, if you’re looking for a great approach to fasted training utilizing BCAAs to optimize fat loss while preserving muscle mass, check out Leangains.

Protein: yes, protein makes the list of best supplements for weight loss and best supplements for muscle gain.  Again, this is a macronutrient that is pretty much required if you want to build muscle.    It not only helps to reduce muscle breakdown during exercise, but promotes the growth of new muscle after exercise.  You can read more about the use of protein in this article about Training Performance and Recovery.

Best Supplements for Health

Multi-Vitamin: even if you maintain a healthy diet, a multi-vitamin may provide some added benefits to ensure that you are receiving essential nutrients.  I think this is a key component to any diet and exercise program.  If you’re keeping calories low, there’s a chance you may be sacrificing vitamins and minerals.  Those are exactly what your body needs to benefit from an intense exercise program.

Essential Fatty Acids: I don’t know about you, but I don’t get enough Omega 3 fats mainly due to the lack of fish in my diet.  Omega 3 fatty acids may be helpful in reducing inflammation, joint pain reduction, and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol.  A lot of people turn to fish oil as an Omega 3 supplement.  I prefer krill oil since it has more antioxidants and better absorption than regular fish oil.  Most important to me, krill oil does not result in a fishy aftertaste or fish burps.  Some studies have shown that krill oil may also aid weight loss, especially if taken before bed at night.  However, the dosage needs to be fairly high and is more of a short-term effect.

Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain

In closing, I think the best supplements for weight loss include caffeine, capsaicin, cinnamon, and green tea.  I take 3 capsules of Prograde Metabolism (which contains all these and more) about 30 minutes before my morning workouts (4 days per week).   I have also been using PAGG for the last 2 months and will probably use it for another 2 months before stopping due to the price.  The best supplements for muscle gain include creatine and BCAAs.  I only use creatine strategically for 2-3 months at a time on and off throughout the year.  For BCAAs, I drink Xtend before and after my workouts.  Protein is one of the best supplements for both weight loss and muscle gain, and I’ll occasionally indulge in shakes.  Finally, for health reasons, I’ve been taking a multi-vitamin and krill oil.

In my opinion, even though these are the supplements that work for men and women, there’s no reason you can’t achieve great results without them.  Whether or not you take the best supplements for weight loss and muscle gain, make sure to undertake a healthy diet and intense exercise program.

32 Responses to “Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain that Work for Men and Women”

  • Dave,

    Great list of supplements. I take quite a few of these. I want to start taking BCAAs but in pill form, it looks like I’d need to take like 30 capsules a day just to get 15g worth. Is Xtend a powder form? What’s your opinion on pills vs. powder BCAAs?

    Alykhan

  • Alykhan,
    Xtend is powder form with 6.5g per scoop. I take 1 scoop with 6oz water before exercise in the morning and then sip 4 scoops mixed with 24oz water for the next 2-4 hours. Taste is fine for me…kind of a muted grape Kool Aid. They offer other flavors as well. I first heard about it from Martin at Leangains and I trusted his recommendation. For people who don’t like the taste, pills might work better. I also find that the liquid form is actually quite filling so I remain in a fasted state.
    Dave

  • Rick:

    Another great article. There is so much confusion and misinformation out there around supplements, and with the advertising budgets that some of these companies have and how they are (and have been) promoted in the various muscle and fitness mags (now on-line), just makes it impossible to figure out.

    As an “old guy” for me it’s pretty simple, I’m not looking for bulk or big gains, and as I’ve said in a previous post, not looking to get “ripped” (hey anything around 10% BF works for me…), general overall fitness is the goal. I did want to second your plug for Krill oil. In the past I would take a multi-vitamin and fish oil. I tried several all with the same results, had to take 2 or 3 at least twice a day, and the fish ‘burps’ were awful, especially during and after a tough HIIT workout. I tried taking them at different times with food, with different liquids. Same result. Then I stumbled upon Krill oil. I did a bunch of research and have been taking Krill for about 7 months now. WAY better overall! First, one small capsule a day, second no after effects in any way, no matter when or with what I take them, and I’ve found they are actually cheaper in the long run because it’s only one a day. Here’s a really good web page I found during my research – http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/inflammation/why-krill-oil

  • Hey Dave,
    Love how you add in the ‘natural supplements’ I think too many people rely on what comes in a box.
    I agree with all the naturals and believe I get enough from eating a balanced diet but reality is I’m too lazy and cheap to buy any.
    So the only thing I do take is a protein powder as a meal replacement and that’s it, so I get by with that.
    Even if you said my performance and results would improve by >10%, I’d probably still wouldn’t do any more but items like BCAA, oil, multis & PAGG a lot of people do swear by it.
    Raymond

  • Great post Dave. Some really good info here. I’m not BIG on supplements but there are a few I take. I take a multivitamin, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E capsule each morning. I also regularly take protein with my workouts.

    I’m cautious about trying things such as creatine. It’s very tempting to try because it drastically accelerates results, but long-term studies don’t exist.

  • Great Review on Supplements Dave! Prograde sure makes top quality supplements.

    A few of my other favorite supplements for fat loss are:

    Yohibimine to increase fat burning and reduce appetite.

    5-HTP very effective to take 30 mintues before a meal or at night to eliminate carb cravings and reduce appetite.

  • Rick,
    Nice find with that article on krill oil…hit all the major points. While it’s a little more expensive, I think the benefits of it far outweigh the extra cost vs. fish oil. Can’t go wrong with a good multi-vitamin either. Excellent point about supplement company marketing and lack of any real FDA oversight doesn’t help.

    Raymond,
    Natural is the way to go. If you have patience and a good diet like you, then there’s no reason for supplements. Some people like me enjoy a little extra kick here and there.

    Srdjan,
    There have been a lot of short term studies on creatine and that’s how I tend to use it…over the short term. 2-3 months at a time followed by 3-4 months off. I feel like using it in this way can strategically help me while avoiding potential long term side effects.

    Greg,
    Prograde is top notch for supplements…“A” Rated Good Manufacturing Practices facility. I’ve actually read about the other supplements you mention but have been hesitant to use them. Right now, adding caffeine seems to have helped me suppress my appetite. Maybe down the road I’ll add this into my repertoire.

    Dave

  • Don’t forget Vitamin D, which is probably the vitamin that most people in western countries are deficient in, and has horrible consequences.

    The average multi doesn’t contain enough of it, and the required dosage for those who don’t get sun is multiple times the RDA.

  • Kris,
    I forgot about Vitamin D…definitely an important one especially here in the Northeast where it’s hard to get enough sun. The reason I forgot is because the multivitamin I take from Prograde contains Vitamin D from cod liver oil so I don’t supplement separately. Thanks for the reminder.
    Dave

  • Nice article Dave, so PAGG isn’t worth the price is what you’re saying? I read 4HB and have been wondering about that stack at times because it doesn’t take the stimulatory route that taxes the adrenals.

  • Ahmed,
    I like PAGG and still take it. Love all the theory behind the ingredients. I’ll do a full review on it in a few weeks. If it was $30-40 per month, I’d probably use it all the time. At $90 for a one month supply, it’s a little pricey. If you really believe in it, then I’d have to recommend the 6 month supply since at $60 per month, it’s much more reasonable. Even 3 months at $65 per month isn’t bad.
    Dave

  • I love that when I clicked to the post… It was NOTHING I expected…

    I was expecting the typical fitness post, displaying supplements with affiliate links, but kudos to you! ALL natural supplements from nature…

    Great job man!

  • Sal,
    Thanks for the feedback. The supplements with the least risks relative to rewards seem to be the natural ones.
    Dave

  • Well said! So, I have been looking around for a way to contact you…. can’t find one… So I hit you up on twitter! Get at me, I have something cool to share with you.

    Thanks dude!

  • Sal,
    Facebook is usually a better way. I’ll email you separately though.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    I’m so incredibly perplexed when it comes to supplements. I recently went into my local GNC store and instantly felt completely intimidated. The store was crawling with athletic-looking guys in their 20s and 30s or totally buff women. I suddenly felt frumpy and very unfit compared to the shoppers there, lol. They all seemed so well, knowledge about supplements. I promised myself I wouldn’t return until I was a little more educated. I know it sounds silly since this is 2011 after all but that’s how I truly felt.

    So, this leads me to my question. What do you think of some of the herbal supplements that are out there on the market? I do drink green tea (two cups a day), sprinkle cinnamon on a lot of my food items and *occasionally* eat a hot pepper or two. All of this is fine and dandy but my biceps are still really, really small. My wrist circumference is only 5 inches around. My forearm is only 7 inches. My neck is only 12 inches. I’m not exactly a big person.

    The top part of me from the ribcage up to my shoulders is lean and toned but not very muscular. I’d love to develop more muscle tone, if possible. I don’t want to look ‘jacked up’ like a he-woman but a nicely developed bicep and forearm would be great -akin to a tennis player.

    I don’t need to lose anymore weight – at 117 lbs. and 5’6″; I’m good with that. I just want to build some nice upper body strength. I always joke that I look like a more athletic-looking Olive Oil from ‘Popeye’, seriously.

    My legs have slimmed down from all the running which is good but building muscle in my shoulders and arms has been a constant thorn in my side.

    Short of ingesting cartons of cottage cheese or 20 egg whites at every meal to pump up my protein intake for muscle growth (which is not possible or even sane, lol), what am I to do?

    Any suggestions on your part would be most appreciated. Thanks.

  • Toni,
    GNC…what a blast from the past! I was a regular customer and Gold member for a long time. There’s so much hype in the supplement industry that everyone considers themselves experts. Frankly, the marketing is what really sells the product since the real best supplement for weight loss is ephedrine (outlawed in the US for some pretty severe psychological side effects). A lot of big buff guys would save time and money if they realized creatine was the best supplement for muscle gain as well.

    Beyond those, the products that contain more natural ingredients are the way to go in my opinion. That’s not to say all the other supplements are bad. Protein is good if you don’t get enough from lean meats or want a healthy substitute for a milk shake. I’m planning on taking multi-vitamins and essential fatty acids for the foreseeable future as well. The rest of the supplements I listed are just a bonus when I’m trying to get lean or gain a little extra muscle.

    On to your questions…first of all, thanks for all the great comments. Let me know if you’d ever prefer email when discussing these fitness topics…if you don’t like broadcasting yourself across the web.

    I generally answer a question with a question so here goes…what does your current workout routine look like? I know you like to run but what do you do for upper body exercises? How often, how many sets/reps, etc.? That is what will really dictate how muscular your arms get. No supplement will give you as much benefit as the proper workout routine.

    If you already have a great upper body routine, you could try creatine. I don’t hear about that many women trying it but it’s a very well researched supplement. I’ve written more on it here:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/muscle-building-supplements/creatine-benefits-best-muscle-building-supplement

    Protein probably isn’t the answer either…
    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/health-and-nutrition/how-much-protein-do-i-need-per-day

    Let me know your routine and I’ll give you some more thoughts. As I mentioned, if you’d prefer to discuss through email rather than comments, just let me know.

    Dave

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    If you don’t mind, I’d rather not correspond via email because I don’t like giving out my personal email address, sorry (hope I didn’t offend you). I don’t think I’ve said anything too personal IMO. Anyway…

    My routine is pretty basic: running 4 miles 3x week, 1 day of HIIT, 3 days of Pilates for 30 minutes (on the same day as running: at night) and 2x week kettlebells with core work (mostly non-weighted except for the tree trunks I do) piggybacked on top of that which equals 6 days per week/5+ hours total. Sundays are my day off.

    For the upper body I do (with the 15 lb. kettlebell): swings, deadlifts, windmills, snatch pull and push-press and one-arm swings – 10 reps/3 circuits of these, resting for 30-60 seconds b/t each exercise.
    With dumbbells I do: shoulder flys, bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, squats with the weights above my head. The weight I currently use is: 10 lbs.

    Then all the core work: tree trunks with the kettlebell in my hand, oblique crunches, regular planks, leg raises, reverse crunches, side planks and bicycles – like 15 reps of each. Regular planks I hold for 30 seconds and do them 3x. FYI: I’ve tried to do v-sits and/or v-ups but I just couldn’t do them properly so I gave up.

    And…that’s pretty much it. Phew! I’m tired just typing my routine.

    What do you think?

  • Toni:

    Dave,

    The oblique exercise is not called the tree trunk (sorry, misinformation!) it’s really the seated oblique twist that I mention in the above post. I was told that it was called the tree trunk by someone. I didn’t want you wondering what exercise I meant.

  • Toni,
    No problem with the email…I just like throwing the option out there since some people don’t like discussing specifics of their diet and exercise programs.

    Sounds like a great fat burning routine you have going. Two things that I expected: you’re using pretty light weights and doing 3 sets of 10 reps. This is great for circuit training to help you burn fat. However, if you want to increase the muscle tone and definition of your arms, the best way is probably through heavier weight training with 1-3 reps. I discuss this concept in a little more detail on this post (which you may or may not have already read!):

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/best-workout-routines/strength-reps-muscle-mass-reps

    Is that something you’ll be able to do though? You might have to get a heavier set of dumbbells. You’ll also want to make sure you’re performing the exercises safely with good form. So the only real tweak I would make to your routine is to perform some heavy weight strength training prior to your kettlebell circuits.

    Here are some strength training exercises to consider:

    http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com/beginners-workouts/workout-routines-for-beginners-strength-training-exercises

    Hope that provides a decent starting point. Let me know if you need some help crafting a more specific routine.

    Dave

  • Toni:

    What’s a better weight for dumbbells for me? I figured that was probably one of my downfalls, lol. I’ll read the link you posted in the meantime. Thanks very much.

  • Toni,
    It depends. Every exercise is different. For example, I wouldn’t think you’d use the same weight for both bench press and curls. It also depends on how many reps you’re doing. If you choose to do 3 reps, then I would recommend using a weight you can lift 4-5 times. How do you figure out what weight you can lift 4-5 times? Unfortunately, it’s trial and error. I’d try to do a routine with 3 reps and if those 3 reps feel really easy, then increase weight the following set or following workout. To get density and definition, you’ll want to make sure your muscle don’t fail as well. You should always be able to do one more rep than you actually complete.
    Dave

  • I was pleasantly surprised you started this post with some food items instead of pills. I’m a big fan of Prograde – I use many of their products. However, I can’t stand the taste of the vanilla whey protein! I don’t know what it is, I like the chocolate, but the vanilla doesn’t even smell good to me! Does anyone else have this experience?

  • Hiedi,
    Protein really is an acquired taste. Some people like certain flavors while others can’t stand them. Finding a flavor you enjoy is key.
    Dave

  • Wow, this is a really comprehensive post Dave! You have pretty much covered all of the basics. Do you experiment with things like NO or L-glutamine?

  • Tim,
    I’ve never had NO before and probably won’t. Just seems like too much caffeine and too many possible heart risks. I feel like I get enough L-glutamine from normal protein sources and that it really doesn’t offer much additional benefit…at least based on Brad Pilon’s How Much Protein research.
    Dave

  • Jeff:

    I’m 41 and looking to get in better shape. I’m 6’5” and 275 lbs. What I wish is to loose weight and gain muscle. My energy levels vary from day to day. My question is what supplements would you recommend for me to help see results ? (not looking for magic pill)

  • Jeff,
    I’m not really a big supplement guy. Nothing beats good old fashioned hard work via intense exercise and a focus on a solid diet. The supplements I mentioned above are generally safe but won’t offer any magic solution or fast results. They’re just a good tweak when you want to take things an extra step. Creatine is a good one for gaining muscle but you might find your weight increasing due to water retention. Otherwise, eating the right foods will go a lot further than any supplement. It’s easier to lose weight if you have plenty of fiber in your diet. Veggies and omega 3s will help keep you healthy as well. Protein will keep you full and you should try to avoid sugar if possible. Sorry to say but that’s the best advice I can offer.
    Dave

  • Justin:

    i’m 5,6 and about 170 pounds, i’m looking to lose weight but also trying to get my muscle tone i have now. I work out on average 5-6 days a week, run about 10 miles total a week and have a balanced diet, but i have to make weight so i can go to bootcamp for the Marines, but can’t seem to lose weight. Any advice?

  • Justin,
    How many calories are eating per day? If you’re aggressively trying to lose weight, you might have to limit yourself to 1,700. I’d try to have 150g of protein, less than 150g of carbs and the remainder as good fats. Stay away from sugar. As for exercise, do you just run or weight train as well? Weight training will help increase muscle mass and ultimately increase your metabolism…but the scale might show an increase in weight. Running may help you lose weight but some of that could be muscle. I prefer HIIT relative to long runs. If you need to cut weight fast, then you should try to do 6 hours of exercise per week.
    Dave

  • Victor:

    Hi Dave, I’m 5’5″ and almost 170lbs. Working to lose weight to 130lbs and hoping to eliminate my bulging belly.
    My workout:
    MWF PM & Sunday AM- 4x a week Run/Jog/Walk, ave. 20mi a week or not less 45mins ea
    MWF AM- Yoga Flex for warm-up, Knee Push up & Squat 10rep x 8set
    TTh AM- Yoga Flex for warm-up, 30min Pilates
    Sat is my rest day
    Doing this for 1 month, so far I thought I lost 10lbs but I think I hit plateau and I’m gaining back what I’ve lost.
    I figured diet is the problem, but for me its not a luxury to choose the food available.
    I am looking into drinking protein shakes for dinner and really eat only at breakfast or lunch.
    I’m desperate to destroy this belly.
    Thanks.

  • Victor,
    The first thing to accept is that losing 40lbs will take some time. For most people, the stubborn belly fat is the last thing to go as well. How intense are you running? Are you simply jogging for 45 minutes? If so, I would recommend switching to HIIT 2-3 days per week and gradually increasing the amount of upper body strength training you perform. More muscle means faster metabolism. I don’t usually recommend switching real food for protein shakes so stick with lean meats and green veggies if possible. You could consider intermittent fasting where you only eat in an 8 hour window or go a full 24 hours without food 1-2 days per week.
    Dave

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