By: Matt Weik
The IML Blog
Let’s face it, there are items that we all use when heading to the gym—the staples. It’s like a ritual we go through before we walk into the weight room and make the daily sacrifice to the Gainz God. But let’s be clear about one thing. If you don’t have the items listed below in your gym bag, you’re simply not a legit member of our ripped and cut cult. Here’s a quick rundown of must haves….so you’re not left out!
The “Blender Bottle”
The Blender Bottle™ is a brand I personally trust, but it doesn’t mean this is the only brand out there that sells shaker bottles. I use these shakers for just about everything. I have dedicated shakers JUST for my protein powder and then I have dedicated shakers for JUST liquids such as water or green tea. The main take home is to find a brand that doesn’t leak, has a nice seal so that it won’t open easily (the flip top spout), and that can withstand multiple washes without the materials breaking down and starting to look like it went through a war. With a quality shaker, you can take your pre-workout, fill it with your intra-workout product like a BCAA, and then mix your protein shake post-workout. BOOM! One shaker, multiple uses. You can buy shakers just about anywhere; Grocery stores, big box retailers, drug stores, as well as online. If you are shopping anywhere and they don’t sell shaker bottles, they aren’t serious about health and fitness. There are many types of shaker bottles and water bottles out there, but I have yet to find one that is as consistent as the Blender Bottle.
High Quality Protein Powder
Post-workout nutrition is extremely important and you don’t want to skimp and purchase some off-brand, cheap, looks too good to be true, protein. Look for a reputable brand that has some years under their belt in the industry and purchase their protein. Too many brands are coming out of the woodwork and some aren’t even meeting their label claims. The larger companies generally do not try and pull one over on consumers as they have too much to lose through a lawsuit. You can search for online retailers who sell supplements or visit your local nutrition or supplement store and they can help guide you toward a protein that might fit what you’re looking for.
If you want a high-quality protein, go for a whey isolate. If you are looking for a more economical option, a blended whey will serve you well. A blended whey is generally made up of isolates, concentrates, and sometimes caseinates. The cost is less than a strict isolate because it also contains some lower quality, less expensive raw materials. If you want something barebones, grab yourself a whey concentrate only product. While it doesn’t contain any isolates, it’s still a good enough quality protein source to help you repair and build torn muscle fibers and get you ready for your next workout.
Stim-Heavy Pre-Workout Powder*
It seems like things are trending to the extreme these days where if a consumer doesn’t feel a product, they deem it bad. For that reason, many lifters are moving towards stimulant-heavy pre-workout powders. These products generally have 200+mg of caffeine along with other ingredients such as beta-alanine, citrulline malate, yohimbe, and others. While not all the ingredients in the product are direct stimulants, many of them help enhance the effects of the actual stimulants in the product.
Most people who take pre-workouts want to feel the energy. Some even like the tingly sensation you get through the use of niacin, which is another ingredient added to many pre-workout products on the market today. The downside to a stim-heavy pre-workout powder is that your body becomes accustomed to using it, so the felt effects are minimized over time. Generally, your adrenal glands need to be reset at that point and you’d want to discontinue the use of the pre-workout product until an adrenal reset is done.
With so many different pre-workouts on the market, I’d recommend staying away from up and coming brands and stick with the tried and true. Many of the “underground” or up and coming brands have been found to taint their products or use soon to be banned ingredients. To prevent yourself from getting hooked on a product that could very well disappear while you’re using it, try some of the main supplement brands out on the market.
There is no shortage of these types of products, so if you have the ability to try a sample before you buy it, that would be ideal. If not, it comes down to a guessing game on what would work best for you. Look at reviews online as well as what others in the gym are using and use that as a guide to where to start. From there, decide on a price you’re willing to spend as well as flavors you would prefer so you can make an informed decision when it’s time to open up your wallet. Pre-workout products can be purchased both online as well as at nutrition and supplement retailers. Legal Disclaimer: Always consult with a medical professional before starting any supplementation program.
There are thousands of different stylish headphones on the market these days that range from low end to high end and vary by price that you can plug directly into your smartphone or sync via Bluetooth. If you tend to lose things, don’t buy a good pair. If you are the type of person that destroys things, don’t buy a good pair. If you are careful with your products and enjoy hearing every note of music and pitch, then grab yourself a high-quality pair of headphones.
Headphones come in all sorts of sizes, styles, and uses. If you are wearing your headphones to run, find a pair that will stay in or on your head when doing so. I’ve tried many different styles from in the ear, to on the ear, to over the ear, and honestly, it’s personal preference. I’ve found when lifting an on the ear or over the ear gives me the best results and stays put. However, if I’m doing cardio or anything involving quick movements, I prefer an in the ear. Again, this is just my personal preference. You can get yourself a low-end pair of earbuds or you can go all the way up to a Bose or a pair of Beats headphones.
This section isn’t TRULY needed, but many gym bros have a bunch of accessories that they bring to the gym – wraps, straps, belts, chalk, towels (which you should always have regardless if you get one from the gym or from your house), and even gloves (if you don’t want to damage your delicate little hands). It’s like never shooting a basketball in your life but when you put on a pair of Jordan’s you instantly think you’re going to the NBA.
For that reason, I urge you to keep any accessories to the bare minimum. Don’t bring a gym bag full of equipment and worthless junk you’re not using to help you in the gym. If you’re doing body weight squats, you don’t need knee wraps. And if you truly do, then you probably shouldn’t be squatting. If you’re a 140-pound male benching only the bar, leave the smelling salts at home. Bring what you need, and only what you need. And it definitely should serve a purpose. Don’t bring it to look cool. Those NBA arms sleeves that people are wearing aren’t going to turn you into a bodybuilder. And if you can actually fit one of those sleeves over your arms, you’re probably not a bodybuilder.
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