| | The Kingpin’s Guide to Supplements

Author / Hunter Waldman

7 - 20 minutes read

For roughly the past 6 months, my team and I have been buried away in our lab testing out various protocols for enhancing performance, boosting metabolic health, and improving cognition. I guess its no surprise that when we finally emerged (it’s Summer 2023 now), the hot topic that has resurfaced is supplementation. I shouldn’t be shocked – over half of the studies that we conduct are focused on various supplements with these same goals. Still, it is always interesting to me just how many people focus on them, and how a new supplement can set the internet ablaze (insert latest and greatest peptide xxx). Seeing daylight again, I think it’s time to provide the Nation with an updated 2023 guide to supplements, to be referenced and shared amongst its followers. And since this is the Power Athlete Nation I am writing to, the focus here will be on performance, and only those supplements that fall into a Tier 1 category (more on this below). This is a blog remember, so writing the next dissertation on this topic is beyond the scope. Side note, If your favorite supplement wasn’t discussed, there is probably a really good reason for it. Like Layne Norton says, “95% of supplements are junk” and I agree. However, there are some which very highly effective…pending the context in which they are used, and can enhance performance respectably when dosed and timed correctly.

Briefly, in the research world we identify supplements on a Tier system (1).

  • Tier 1: Strong evidence to support efficacy and apparently safe
    • These supplements work and we know they work. This is <5% of the supplements on the market.
  • Tier 2: Mixed evidence to support their efficacy
    • This is probably the largest umbrella for supplements. Many of the supplements being studied fall into this category, with some nearly at the Tier 1 level (eg., astaxanthin, HMB, beet root juice/nitrates, etc).
  • Tier 3: Little to no evidence to support efficacy or safety
    • Stay away from. There is no benefit to be gained at all from these supplements for the time being (eg., deer antler extract, arginine, glutamine, Tribulus terrestris, etc.)

Performance Enhancing Supplements

Below is a brief review of supplements (we have limited space and thanks to social media, often limited attention capacity), with citations provided for those that want to read more on these topics. The supplements listed are not all of the Tier 1 supplements, and are not provided in any specific order. But, I have taken into account price, efficacy, and general tolerability amongst individuals based on my experience and that reported in the literature.

Caffeine – Among the supplements listed, caffeine likely has the most research behind it, with creatine coming in a close second. It is clear that regardless if you are a habitual caffeine consumer (2) or if you never consume caffeine (3), it enhances performance when dosed and timed correctly (3 – 6 mg per kg of body mass). When taking at the higher doses (~6 mg/kg), it does appear that caffeine can enhance fat burning and even elevate some levels of adrenaline. All good things when trying to enhance performance. But, its real advantage is acting as an adenosine antagonist. Briefly, adenosine is a substrate that builds up in the brain over the course of the day and tells the brain you are tired. Caffeine is structured just like adenosine and so when it enters, it blocks adenosine in the brain and hence, the “pick-me” up you get from consuming it. The mechanisms by which caffeine enhances performance are extensive, which include increasing alertness and cognitive responses if somewhat sleep deprived, and can increase some physical performance markers like strength, endurance, and fat metabolism, and it can dull the sense of fatigue or pain during exercise. This is all when supplemented acutely (one time) and about ~60 min from your workout. To put it in perspective, the typical cup of coffee will provide you ~120 mg of caffeine and an energy drink ~300 mg caffeine. If you weigh 100 kg (220 lbs – just divide your body weight by 2.2 to get kg), then this person would require 300 – 600 mg of caffeine to get the performance benefits I mentioned (100 kg X 3 – 6 mg of caffeine = 300 – 600 mg caffeine). Just be aware, more is not better. For those who don’t habitually consume caffeine, start with a lower dose since caffeine can induce heart palpitations, tremors, and stomach distress, but overall is a safe supplement when taken correctly.

Creatine – In the running for most studied supplement, creatine gives caffeine a run for its money. Another Tier 1 supplement by a long shot, creatine does everything from enhancing power, strength, muscle mass, optimizing body composition, enhancing cognition, and appears to serve as both an antioxidant and osmolyte (substances that provide the driving gradient for water uptake) during periods of dehydration within the cell (4). Those are a lot of benefits, with minimal side-effects in the population other than the anecdotal reports of some minor bloating and possible stomach distress. If optimizing metabolic health, cognition, and performance is your concern (it should be), you should be supplementing with creatine. Among the other supplements listed below, none really touch the plethora of benefits that creatine offers for both men and women. Women specifically, I encourage you to read this excellent article about creatine’s benefits across the lifespan written by a good friend and brilliant researcher, Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan (5). Supplementation wise, a general rule of thumb is 5 grams per day for those under 200 lbs and 10 grams per day for those over 200 lbs. There is no research to suggest you should cycle creatine and there is little reason to do a loading phase (20 grams for 5-7 days), unless you just want to saturate the cells faster with creatine. As for timing, the key takeaway is simple: be consistent. Additionally, there is some research to suggest that taking it with ~25-50 grams of a fast digesting carbohydrate like grape juice or OJ may enhance its uptake, especially after working out. But like so many things, consistency is truly the key with realizing the benefits. Finally, type of creatine? The research is clear that monohydrate (I know…boring), is as effective as any other type of creatine, and monohydrate has the most evidence behind it. No need to be fancy here!

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Citrulline – Among the supplements already outlined, citrulline is another cost-effective supplement that may offer some big benefits to the user. Citrulline is known to enhance performance by boosting Nitric Oxide levels which increases blood flow to working muscles or during recovery. Citrulline is often added to pre-workouts for this reason, but is also generally under-dosed. When dosed correctly (3-6 grams of Citrulline or 6-8 grams of Citrulline Malate), research has shown that citrulline can reduce time to complete a physical task, increase repetitions in a given exercise like the bench press, and reduce soreness the following days allowing you to return to training, faster (6-7).

Beta-Alanine – During hard exercise, one of the byproducts of metabolism are an elevation in hydrogen ions, which play a role in fatigue. Luckily though, your body buffers these hydrogen ions via various mechanisms to allow the muscle to continue unbothered. One of these mechanisms is carnosine, a naturally occurring protein found in muscle and elsewhere. Briefly, carnosine is synthesized from beta-alanine (BA), and if you supplement with BA, those carnosine levels increase. This is a good thing for performance, as an increase in carnosine assists with reducing fatigue, utilizing glucose for fuel during exercise, and possible antioxidant effects from BA supplementation (8-9). Dosing appears to be in the range of 4-6 grams daily to saturate the cells within a ~4 week period. Some individuals that experience stomach distress or face tingling can spread this load across multiple doses per day (Example: 2 grams with breakfast, lunch, and dinner; 6 grams total).

Whey Protein – Yes. Just yes… 20-30 grams as a meal replacement and 35-50 grams post workout. A basic whey protein is sufficient and generally just comes down to taste for the user. In general though, a solid whey protein is in my top 2 supplements, with creatine beside it.

A word on Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D3 is a tricky supplement. Here is what we know: Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that, when converted to its active form, essentially acts as a hormone. The literature is quite clear that blood levels of Vit. D3 correlate nicely with your risk for injury, performance, and mental state. Here is what we don’t know: We don’t know if simply increasing your Vitamin D3 levels through supplementation (you take a pill with D3 and then blood D3 goes up) is the same as the habits which naturally elevate Vitamin D3 levels (ie., adequate sun exposure, eating calcium and Vit. D rich foods like dairy, sardines/salmon, mushrooms, reducing stress levels). Overall, we know that there is no clear direction as to whether supplementation with Vitamin D3 has an effect on performance measures, good or bad (10). Based on how people talk about Vitamin D3 though, you would think this supplement is an absolute must. My thoughts – get blood work done and if you are deficient, then supplementation makes sense (1,000 – 5,000 IUs/day). Even then, building those habits will go a much further than likely ingesting a capsule.

Just Tell Me What To Take

After reviewing the list, it appears minimal…which some may see as disappointing, especially depending on what their pantry looks like. I would challenge you to see this as a good thing though. It suggests that >95% of what you are seeking comes other sources, like cleaning up your diet, your training, sleep, recovery habits, stress management, and elsewhere. Keep in mind, these are supplements. There very name suggest they should be supplementing your already good habits – not taking the place of them. It also means you can be cost-effective with your money and direct it elsewhere. While the list is not comprehensive, it does cover most of the Tier 1 supplements, with cost and efficacy in mind. For those interested in a complete list of supplements, I would direct you to the ISSN review (1). For those coming to the PowerAthlete collective in September, stay tuned. I’ll be personally lecturing on these supplements and others for those in attendance, and how to best build a supplement stack that works for you!


BLOG: The No Bullshit Supplement Post by John Welbourn

BLOG: What the Science Says: Beta Alanine Supplementation by Ben Skutnik

BLOG: What the Science Says: Creatine by Ben Skutnik

BLOG: Functional Medicine Blood Work – My Top Picks by Leah Kay

EDU: Power Athlete Methodology


  1. Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Roberts, M. D., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S. M., Jäger, R., … & Kreider, R. B. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations. Journal of the international society of sports nutrition, 15(1), 38.
  2. de Salles Painelli V, Teixeira EL, Tardone B, Moreno M, Morandini J, Larrain VH, Pires FO. Habitual Caffeine Consumption Does Not Interfere With the Acute Caffeine Supplementation Effects on Strength Endurance and Jumping Performance in Trained Individuals. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2021 Jul 1;31(4):321-328. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2020-0363. Epub 2021 May 19. PMID: 34010807.
  3. Dodd S. L., Brooks E., Powers S. K., Tulley R. (1991). The effects of caffeine on graded exercise performance in caffeine naive vs. habituated subjects. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. Occup. Physiol. 62, 424–429. 10.1007/BF00626615
  4. Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, Greenwood M, Campbell B, Spano M, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Aug 30;4:6. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-4-6. PMID: 17908288; PMCID: PMC2048496.
  5. Smith-Ryan, A. E., Cabre, H. E., Eckerson, J. M., & Candow, D. G. (2021). Creatine supplementation in women’s health: a lifespan perspective. Nutrients, 13(3), 877.
  6. Suzuki T, Morita M, Kobayashi Y, Kamimura A. Oral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Feb 19;13:6. doi: 10.1186/s12970-016-0117-z. PMID: 26900386; PMCID: PMC4759860.
  7. Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0. PMID: 20386132.
  8. Hobson RM, Harris RC, Martin D, Smith P, Macklin B, Gualano B, Sale C. Effect of beta-alanine, with and without sodium bicarbonate, on 2000-m rowing performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013 Oct;23(5):480-7. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.23.5.480. Epub 2013 Mar 26. PMID: 23535873.
  9. Hobson RM, Harris RC, Martin D, Smith P, Macklin B, Gualano B, Sale C. Effect of beta-alanine, with and without sodium bicarbonate, on 2000-m rowing performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013 Oct;23(5):480-7. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.23.5.480. Epub 2013 Mar 26. PMID: 23535873.
  10. de la Puente Yagüe M, Collado Yurrita L, Ciudad Cabañas MJ, Cuadrado Cenzual MA. Role of Vitamin D in Athletes and Their Performance: Current Concepts and New Trends. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 23;12(2):579. doi: 10.3390/nu12020579. PMID: 32102188; PMCID: PMC7071499.
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Hunter Waldman

Hunter Waldman is a former DII collegiate linebacker who found his passion in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology during his undergraduate years. After working as a Strength and Conditioning coach/personal trainer for several years, Hunter pursued his doctorate in Exercise Physiology while also serving as a Sweat Scientist for the Gatorade Sport Science Institute (GSSI) in Florida. Hunter is now a Professor of Exercise Science at the University of North Alabama, Researcher, Director of the Exercise Biochemistry Laboratory, and Power Athlete Block-1 Coach. Hunter's research area is in Nutrition and Metabolic Health/Performance, where his lab is attempting to understand how to increase cell stress resiliency via nutrition, supplements, and exercise.


  1. ole777 asia on August 25, 2023 at 4:23 am

    THE KINGPIN’S GUIDE TO SUPPLEMENTS. It is very useful for our body.

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