The satisfaction of a great workout routine: going hard and seeing great results. You’ve dropped two pants sizes, the treadmill incline is set to Mt. Hood level, and you can plank your way through half an episode of Game of Thrones. Then bam! Nothing. What happened? You just hit the workout plateau.

Sometimes all you need is a little extended rest and recovery. Try checking your resting heart rate first thing in the morning for a few days. If it’s elevated, take a week off or switch to a lower-intensity activity for a week. If recovery isn’t the problem, you might want to consider boosting your workout with safe dietary supplements.

Before selecting a supplement, decide what you want your workout to accomplish, then search for products containing the appropriate amounts of the suggested supplements. Here are a few examples of supplements that may be effective in reaching common fitness goals, such as:

  • Strength building: beta-alanine, creatine
  • Greater energy: branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), caffeine
  • Increased metabolism (to help burn fat): capsicum or capsaicin, raspberry ketones
  • Muscle recovery: arginine, citrulline
  • Mental focus: choline, tyrosine

The upside of pre-workout supplements is that some are widely considered effective; for example, caffeine is a proven energy booster. The downside is that for the most part, the supplement industry is still relatively unregulated. Here are a few tips to help you pick your way through the kaleidoscope of supplement powders, pills, and packets in the vitamin store:

  • Know how much of each supplement to take. Check out this guide to supplement doses and time tables.
  • Look for products that have been independently tested. Organizations such as Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), Informed-Choice, and NSF International place their seals on the labels of approved supplements.
  • Avoid products with “proprietary blend” listed in the nutritional data. Propriety blends often don’t identify the supplements contained in them, and may not contain sufficient supplement dosages.
  • Pay attention to side effects. For example, beta-alanine may cause a “pins-and-needles” sensation. In this case, splitting the dosage may reduce or eliminate this effect. Other side effects of supplements include gastrointestinal distress. To help reduce side effects, start with the lowest recommended dosage of a supplement, give yourself time to adjust to it, and gradually increase the dosage without exceeding the maximum recommended amount.
  • Don’t forget food and water. Many supplements can be found in everyday foods (capsaicin comes from peppers; red meat contains BCAA). And remember to drink plenty of water to help your body manage the increased workout capacity and recovery requirement.

As supplements continue to be studied, scientific revelations about their effectiveness and value will continue to develop. This means that no advice is foolproof. If you’re interested in developing a tailored supplement plan, you may want to consider talking with a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, or dietician.

Go ahead and kick that workout up a notch! If you encounter a strain, sniffle, or sneeze in the gym, though, reach out to Teladoc! Our physicians are available 24/7 to diagnose and treat a wide variety of non-emergency conditions, including exercise-related ailments as well as tummy bugs and upper respiratory infections (gym equipment is laden with germs!). Connect with us by app, web, or phone. Anywhere you are in the U.S., your family can trust Teladoc.

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