Supplements are spoken about a lot in the fitness community. Mainly by sponsored athletes endorsing products they are paid to talk about and have probably never actually seen a benefit from using. This doesn't mean supplements shouldn't have a place in your life. There are plenty of benefits and reasons to take certain supplements. Let me walk you through some of the basic and most talked about ones.
Let me start off by saying that even though Whey Protein is one of the most basic forms of supplement, it's also one of the most misunderstood by beginners (and even pros). Whey protein is nothing more than protein. Yep, it's not a magical powder, it's not going to give you instant muscles and there really isn't a "beneficial time to take it". Protein can be found in all types of food from chicken to bread. The idea behind drinking Whey Protein is that it's a quick and easy way to get in some protein if you need it. Emphasis on the word NEED. Everyone has a certain amount of protein that they need everyday. This will depend on your weight and goals (i.e. Bulking/ cutting/ maintaining). I'm currently on a bulk which means my macros are really high. I'm aiming to eat around 160 grams of protein every day. There is no way I can get that amount in just through food, so I might have a scoop of protein to help me hit my goals. If you don't need it, don't drink it. Yes, there really is such as thing as too much protein! Work out your macros and don't go over your required amount.
"There really is such a thing as too much protein!"
BCAA stands for 'Branched Chain Amino Acids'. When your glycogen stores run low, your body relies on three types of BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) for fuel. It is for this reason that it is recommended to take BCAAs around your time of training, so either before, during or after. BCAAs can also help to improve performance and promote recovery.
I personally believe that these ones can be a BIG waste of money. I'm not saying they don't have their place, but I certainly wouldn't suggest you run to your nearest shop and buy them now. Most Whey Proteins contain BCAAs, so if you take protein powder, you'll probably find you don't need to take these as well. Everyone is quick to jump on BCAAs year round, however I strongly believe that BCAAs are mostly beneficial when trying to drop body fat because they can help with muscle retention, so in theory they should help you hold on to as much muscle as possible as you are dropping body fat.
One of the most studied supplements on the planet is Creatine. Found to be beneficial during high intensity exercise like sprinting and weight lifting, creatine is not something you want to look over. It has the ability to allow you to lift for longer and even move more weight!
Creatine is a by-product of amino acid metabolites that are found in the kidneys, liver and pancreas (sorry, boring science stuff). There are multiple forms of creatine on the market with Creatine Monohydrate being the most popular.
One big misconception with creatine is that you have to go through a loading phase when you first start taking it. FALSE. Simply take 3-5g per day as soon as you begin taking it. No need to load up first.
Pre workouts are used to increase energy before a workout. Pretty much every supplement company on the market is selling at least one type of pre workout. With that in mind, not all of them are the same. The term 'Pre Workout Supplement' is really more of an umbrella term. They can contain anything from carbs to caffeine. My opinion? Look at other aspects of your life before you start taking a pre workout. I know they taste great (for some reason they're like the only type of supplement that I actually enjoy drinking) but if every time you workout you feel the need to down a stimulant, maybe you need to take a look at where your messing up in other areas.
Sleep is the main thing I'm talking about really. Are you getting 8 hours a night? If not, you're not only ruining your energy levels, but also your ability to grow muscle (yep, you heard it right) and also your mental health. I'm not saying pre workout doesn't have it's place. If I'd just worked 9-5 and needed to hit the gym, I'd probably down some caffeine as well. But over using a stimulant means that at some point it's not going to be as effective anymore. That means you'll have to up your dosage and really, where does that leave you? Addiction. Yep, I said it. You'll find yourself no longer being able to workout without some sort of stimulant. Not very "health and fitness" is it?
So those are the main four supplements you'll hear most gym goers talking about. To reiterate, supplements definitely have there place. For beginners? Maybe, but I would only really look at taking some whey protein to help hit your daily protein in take. When you first start working out, you'll get what is known as "newbie gains". Basically the first year of your training will be packed full of gains. After that, things might slow down slightly. I wouldn't consider taking any other supplement until after this point. Mainly to protect your bank balance!