Supplements can play a big role in improving health, aesthetics, and performance—but it's important to know which supplements you need and how you should use them.

I'm here to share my five pillars of supplementation so you can get the most out of your supplements to boost your results in the gym.

The Five Pillars


Before we go any further, understand that my five pillars of supplementation are built on a nutrition foundation. You must dial in your nutrition before you worry about supplementation, or your results will suffer.

These pillars, on top of your solid nutritional foundation, are going to elevate your results and help you achieve greater growth, strength, and performance benefits.

1. Ingredients

Once you have a solid nutrition foundation, you want to focus on the first pillar, which is ingredients. The two main concerns when it comes to every ingredient are whether it has been tested and proven effective, and whether it is safe for humans.

Once you have a solid nutrition foundation, you want to focus on the first pillar, which is ingredients.


Ingredients that have been tested in the lab and in the real world should demonstrate real results. The right ingredients can help you add muscle, increase strength, or improve fat loss, so make sure the ingredients in your supplements have proven outcomes to back up their claims.

The second major concern with ingredients is safety. The ingredients in your supplements should have a long history of toxicology studies and real-world data showing they are safe for humans. Long-term research and data needs to show you can use that ingredient with no adverse side effects.

2. Form

Once your ingredients are solid, the next pillar of supplementation is form. I'm referring to the different forms a molecule can be in. Form can affect how your body interacts with a particular ingredient, impacting its effectiveness.

Take creatine for example. You're probably familiar with creatine monohydrate, the most studied form of creatine, but I use creatine hydrochloride. Why? The creatine molecule is the same either way, but the creatine hydrochloride form helps with uptake and utilization of the creatine molecule by the body.

The goal of creatine supplementation is to get creatine into the muscles, so knowing which form of the molecule allows my body to take in and utilize as much creatine as possible is an important consideration for my goals.

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3. Dosing

Once you know you have solid ingredients in the proper form, the next major concern is dosing. We know supplements must reach certain levels in the body to be effective, which is why dosing is so critical.

Again, I'll use creatine as an example. Creatine needs to reach certain levels in the muscle to be effective. We know the dosing required to get to that level. If the correct dose of creatine is not provided, the muscles will never reach effective levels and you won't experience the benefits of the creatine.



Simply put, a little bit of creatine won't provide a little bit of results. You must follow proper dosing.

Dosing is so essential that you should avoid proprietary blends and concentrates. These formulations do not list the exact amount of the ingredients on the label, and proper dosing means knowing how much of each ingredient is in each serving.

4. Synergy

Once you know you have the ingredients, the form, and the proper dose, the next pillar to think about is synergy. Synergy refers to the way ingredients work together to provide additional benefits beyond what each ingredient can provide on its own.

Some ingredients can enhance the effects of the primary ingredient, while others can undermine it. Synergy is when the ingredients of a supplement all work together to help you achieve a specific result.

Be aware of how different ingredients interact with each other and do your research. It's not uncommon in the supplement industry to see formulations where the manufacturers are actually undermining the effectiveness of one ingredient by adding another, which is why synergy is so important.

5. Timing

You have great ingredients in the correct form with proper dosing and the synergy all makes sense. Now it's time to think about the fifth pillar: timing.

In supplementation, timing is essential for results. I'm a huge believer in pre- and post-workout nutrition and supplementation. Getting certain ingredients, in their proper form and dose, into your system before, during, and after your workout will provide far better results than if you took those same ingredients at another time in the day. We have research to support this, as well as years of anecdotal support from serious lifters.



The bottom line is this: Supplementation only works when you take all five of these pillars into consideration. The proper ingredients, in their ideal form and correct dose, must work synergistically and be taken at the optimal time if you want to get the most out of your supplements.

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About the Author

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim Stoppani holds a doctorate in exercise physiology from the University of Connecticut and has been the personal nutrition and health consultant to numerous celebrity clients, including...

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