It comes from all directions – your training partner, your friends, personal trainers… even the gym owner might have input.
All for good reason, too: when taken correctly, supplements will help you maximize your training.
But there’s a lot of noise out there, and it’s our job to set you on the right path. Our biggest fear is that beginners spend too much money or get sucked into gimmicks that are nothing but incredible marketing pitches.
So we’ve put together a basic and ethical supplement stack to help you on your way. No scams, no ripoffs.*
*For those of you who don’t know, this website, PricePlow.com, is a Price Comparison Shopping site – we find deals and don’t ever recommend overpriced crap.
Before we begin, we first need to define some terms and lay down the laws. Supplements are important to us. We don’t want them misused, and we don’t want you heading in before you’re ready.
What is Stacking?
We define stacking by the use of two or more dietary/nutritional supplements which work synergistically to help meet your daily dietary needs, optimize your training sessions, and reach your fitness goals.
You could use any single product that I’m going to recommend below. But the entire set of products below is our recommended “stack”, even though the products are sold separately. You can do with them as you please, or tweak it yourself. Sometimes we’ll even give you some options, because what’s best for Peggy might not be best for Sue (or you).
The Best of all Worlds – We are Not “Owned”
In our stacks, we take the best from several different companies – all of them honest, ethical, and competitively-priced. Being an independent shopping website with no official affiliations to the manufacturers, we get to recommend the best from all brands.
Believe it or not, this isn’t as common as you might imagine.
What you Need to Know FirstI know you’re antsy for the supplements in the stack, but before we begin discussing them, let’s first reach into our toolbox of information and see what should be done first.
I am often asked by friends and strangers alike about what supplements they should take. In response, I ask them what their goals are, and what their diet and training regimen looks like.
9 out of 10 times they look at me like a deer stuck in headlights (no offense) and mumble something about chicken, eggs, McDonalds and how they train biceps five days a week and run on the treadmill.
From my training and experience in the field, I highly recommend dialing in your diet before worrying about supplements – for numerous reasons.
Use Supplements to Fill the Gaps, Not Build the Foundation
First, the main objective of supplements are to fill the void your diet lacks, for example, EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids – Fish oils, flax seed, etc.) are used to meet your daily nutrition requirements because individuals are often unable to get a sufficient amount in their diet. We aren’t all eating salmon every day, after all.
The same applies for the use of protein powders, amino acids, and multivitamins.
For instance, when training for weight loss, you need to get a lot of protein or you’ll destroy your muscle tissue and look gaunt and unhealthy. Protein is extremely important like that.
But admittedly, it’s hard to meet the protein recommendations every day without supplementing. Not impossible, but hard.
So the powders shown below will fill in the gaps, but aren’t building the foundation.
Point being… we are supplementing, not relying.
Don’t Worry – We’re not gonna make you “huge”…Right about now, you might be wondering “Protein? Won’t that make me huge?”
The short answer is “No.” We are not going to make you “jacked”, “swole”, “huge”, or any of the other catchy phrases the guys like to say.
As a lady, your body is different from a man’s, and as long as you’re responsible, there’s no way you’re going to start looking “swole” unless you’re doing some serious business (and serious eating) that’s far out of the scope of this guide.
So there will be no “getting huge” on this stack – but you are going to get toned. And protein is needed for tone. End of story.
“You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure”
The next lesson is that you need to have your diet setup, and there is some homework that goes along with it.
By establishing what your required caloric intake is, and further breaking down your macros (fats / carbohydrates / proteins), you will be able to determine how to calculate your diet and see what supplements will be best for your goals.
We’re not here to set your diet in place – That’s another article for another time.
We’re just saying that if you don’t get your diet properly set up first — and make it a daily routine — you’re going to be wasting your money. And we say that as a website that makes money selling this stuff!We don’t want anyone to make money if it’s not going to work for you. In this industry, business success should be built on your long-term health success. “Lose weight fast” is the health-world equivalent of “get rich quick” – they are scams. Do it right.
For instance, simply saying “Oh, I’m just gonna do portion control” isn’t the same as setting up a diet. Do it right if you’re going to putting down your hard-earned cash!
Here are the tools to start:
- Calculating Calorie & Macronutrient Needs – This comes from the BB.com Forums, and is intense, but it’s what you gotta know if you’re serious.
- Use a Calorie Counter Website / App
- Learn How to Read Food Labels – It’s surprising how much we don’t know. Read it even if you think you have a handle on this!
The Training Regimen – EVERYTHING is Good – Doing Just ONE Thing is Bad
Having a proper training regimen in place is another key piece to the diet/supplement puzzle; you want to be able to maximize the benefits of taking products.
Our point is, it’s not all about the slow cardio on an elliptical machine for an hour. That’s just one piece of the puzzle, and if it’s the only one you’re willing to do, you’re most likely not going to have a rock star body.
Am I Ready?
Up above, we said that we don’t want you heading in before you’re ready. How do you know when you’re ready?
You’re ready when the two main factors up above — diet and exercise — are drawn up and now in your daily routine. Not sometimes. All the times.
Not Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but 7 days a week.*
When the plan is in place and in motion, and you’re looking for the extra edge, then you’re ready. If it’s not, read the links we have above, or better yet, get an awesome personal trainer.
* (of course, allowing your cheat meal and rest day if you can handle it!)
Now let’s get to it.
THE STACK: Colby’s Weight Loss Supplement Stack for Women
When creating this list, I looked for the core “necessities” that should be the staple for any woman with weight loss in mind. I focused on products that will enhance your health, support the metabolism, control hunger and help you work out harder and longer.
Supplements can do that? They can “work you out harder?”
They sure can. Read on:
When dieting and putting yourself at a caloric deficit, it can be hard to meet your DV (daily value) for micronutrients, vitamins and, minerals. Also, strenuous exercise (especially on a caloric deficit) can deplete your body’s store.
Women’s formulas differ from men’s – some slightly, but others in a vast way. In general, women need to consume more iron in their diet due to menstrual cycle. They also need to make sure they’re getting enough calcium for strong and healthy bones. Some formulas may even have benefits for hair, skin and nails, which many women love.
What Women’s Multivitamin to Take? Our suggestion is simple: Nobody’s ever gone wrong with Optimum Nutrition’s Opti-Women. Nearly every company or store has a version uniquely created for women, but Optimum Nutrition is both the gold standard in value, quality, and trust.
Another thing you can consider are prenatal vitamins – even if you’re not pregnant or expecting to be. Many women claim to have stronger hair and nails when using them.
Once again, it’s important that you don’t think of protein shakes as bulking products for the “beef cakes”. Many women think that these are only tools to gain weight/bulk up, but that simply isn’t the case.
Protein is a must have macro nutrient used to support tissue growth and repair. This supplement will preserve that lean, tone muscle tissue while you’re running at a caloric deficit. Study after study has proven the importance of protein for muscle repair.The absolute WORST thing we see is when women only focus on their weight, and neglect their bodyfat percentages or muscle tone. Attacking “weight loss” at all costs, especially with a low-protein diet, leads to what we call “skinny fat” people. The absolute worst kind of look – and least functional — in our opinions.
This is why we hate the phrase weight loss. Honestly, nearly nobody cares how much you weigh. People care about how you LOOK and FEEL.
And protein is the solution to most of that problem. We don’t care where you get it from: lean beef, chicken breasts, turkey, fish, eggs/egg whites, or the shakes recommended below. Just get it in, and try to vary it up!
What Kind of Protein?
In short, we’re whey protein guys. Most people who know their business will agree.
Whey comes from cow’s milk and is a product created in the cheese manufacturing process. You can consider it a “food supplement” since it comes from food and behaves like food.
A whey protein shake is an easy way to make sure you get enough protein in your diet and help you reach that lean, tone figure you are after.
I suggest a whey protein isolate or a blended product that is low or free from fat, sugar and carbohydrates.
”But Milk and Whey Gives me Gas or Upsets My Stomach…”Notice that above, we recommended whey protein isolate first. A pure whey protein isolate product has all of the potentially bad stuff – the lactose (milk sugars) and other impurities – filtered (isolated!) from the whey. This leaves a higher-density protein that has none of the side effects of the cheaper stuff. The pure isolates are a bit more expensive, and not always as tasty, but if you’re lactose intolerant, they’re an absolute must.
If you can handle your milk and cheaper whey protein with no problem, then don’t worry about a pure isolate – get a whey protein blend, which will contain “whey protein concentrate”, the lesser-filtered whey. Not a bad thing at all – unless you’re sensitive to milk!
If you’re good with any whey protein or milk-based product, then we recommend starting with:
- MTS Nutrition Whey.
MTS Whey is manufactured in a cGMP-certified facility, and is also “NSF Certified for Sport”, which means you can trust it completely – what’s on the label is in the product, and every batch is tested and certified. It’s a delicious product with great recipes from an extremely ethical company.
If you don’t have trust in supplement companies, NSF certified products like MTS Whey will help. Read more about NSF Certification here.
- But if you need a pure whey protein isolate shake due to lactose intolerance, start with Cellucor Super Sport. Vanilla is downright phenomenal, and there’s a ton of great amino acids in it.
Of course, Super Sport isn’t the cheapest, which is why we only want you spending more if you need all of that bad lactose filtered out. Otherwise, MTS is the best deal in terms of value/ethics/taste/quality.
Both of those brands only have chocolate and vanilla flavors, though. If you need a third recommendation, it’s
- Cellucor’s COR Performance Whey Protein. This has mostly whey isolates, so it will be safe for nearly everyone.
The cinnamon swirl flavor is the best-tasting product Mike (founder of PricePlow.com) has ever had. You can see his Cellucor Whey Review to watch his excitement on this one.
Cellucor is recommended for a reason – their flavor team cannot be beaten right now, and they are the big trusted brand that puts out nothing but quality.
Both Cellucor and MTS are extremely ethical companies with trusted manufacturing practices so that you get what they say you’re getting. No nonsense on the labels. If this is your first time hearing of them, it won’t be your last.
When to Take Your Protein
They are best used in between meals and post-exercise.
If you’re a late night snacker, this is also a great time for a sugar-free shake instead. Nothing sets you back like improperly timed sugars and carbs before bed.
Protein will keep your muscles in a repairing state while minimizing the fat gain that eating that dessert or starchy snack would have done – especially at the end of a hard workout day.
Don’t Forget About Egg Whites!Eggs – Nature’s perfect protein. You can’t go wrong with quality egg whites.
They’re great to cook with, but you can even “supplement” with them — When they’re pasteurized, you can even put them into your protein shakes!
If you get serious about egg whites (which you should), they’re going to get expensive at the grocery store. That’s when it’s time to get them in bulk. You can see our Egg Whites Price Comparisons with us at PricePlow — We’re big fans of the team at Egg Whites International!
- MTS Nutrition Whey.
EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids)
Essential fatty acids are not produced naturally in the body and must be consumed in your diet. They help support healthy hormonal functions, which is what makes them “essential”, so please, Do not fear fats!
Without seeing your diet, it’s tough to see what you need to supplement. So let’s break down the most important ones, in no particular order:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Most Often Found in FishHealthy fats from fish, often called “omega-3’s”, promote a healthy immune and cardiovascular system. However, not just any old fish oil will do.
The studies have shown that the two most important parts of omega-3 fish oils are two fatty acids called DHA and EPA.When looking at any omega-3 fish oil, make sure it contains at least 120mg of EPA and DHA.
It might seem excessive, but you want to shoot for at least 500mg total EPA + DHA in a day – but as the study linked above – even more is better. DHA seems to be the most important of the two.
Ratio is More Important than Quantity
However, the studies have found that it’s not really the quantity that’s the issue, so much as the ratio vs. Omega-6 fatty acids that are more prevalent in Western diets. A natural ratio is 1:2 through 1:4 (omega-3:omega-6). Westerners get between 1:20 and 1:30, which causes extremely serious cardiovascular problems inflammation (1:10 is where the source claims problems begin).
As with all of the other healthy fats in this section, it’s tough to tell you what to get without seeing your diet. For instance, if you have a high-fish diet by eating fish at least a 2-3 times a week, and you are not eating too many other polyunsaturated fats, you might not need these supplements.
A potent, high-DHA product is Jarrow Formulas MAX DHA. There’s no nasty after taste, and 3-4 per day will suit you and your cardiovascular system extremely well.
PS: Do you get cold often? These help with circulation as well! (source)
The problem is, we typically don’t get enough, and the best sources of it come from grass-fed and grass-finished beef, which is more expensive and less common in western diets.
The most successful research has been done on obese patients, but 3.4g per day seems to be the sweet spot in terms of burning bodyfat (see the CLA Benefits).
Our recommendation is PrimaForce MAX CLA. We’re big fans of this due to the value. 4 caps per day (two capsules, twice a day, taken with food) is the go-to. If that seems like a lot, try 3 softgels, one with each major meal.
*Side note, I recommend spending a little more to buy grass fed beef. If you eat high amounts of dairy and/or grass-fed beef, you might not need these as much.
MCT Oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides)
– These are the healthy saturated fats that you need! This might be the most underrated part of this entire document.Despite what you may believe, saturated fats are not the devil. They are critical to vital organs like your liver, lungs, and brain, and may even help you burn fat. That’s where the medium chains come in:
Naturally found in coconut oil, MCT is more easily explained by comparing it more to a carbohydrate than to a typical fat. It’s suggested that it can be used quickly for energy and not stored as unwanted fat (study on exercise with MCT oil). But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The best part is that MCTs have been shown to be thermogenic – they actually help you burn more energy via an adrenaline-like pathway (see source).
Our Recommendation? NOW Foods MCT Oil, which has a very thick, dark bottle to help preserve it, while still maintaining the incredible value that we love from NOW Foods.
MCT Oil is great, but it should not be used for cooking because it is not as stable as other saturated fats like coconut oil. However, taking a tablespoon pre workout, perhaps with a small protein shake, can help your muscles metabolize it for extra fat-burning, thermogenic energy.
Otherwise, drop a bit in your salad dressing – you won’t taste it.
When running a diet it may be difficult to get the needed amount into your daily nutrition because fats have a higher calorie content (about 9 calories per gram of fat).
Don’t cut the good fats like these! Instead, get rid of the nonsense like corn oil / vegetable oil, soybean oil (store-bought salad dressings are killers), canola oil, and anything mentioning “hydrogenated” in it.
But do keep some of the fats from fish, olives, coconuts, nuts, and healthy, grass-fed beef!
Thermogenic Fat Burners
Some might question the usage of a fat burner, but the fact is that the properly-formulated products truly do have ingredients that boost your metabolism, suppress appetite, and possibly even improve your thyroid’s function.
When used properly (ie with a solid diet and workout plan), they will get you to your goals faster. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times.Once again, our recommendations will depend on what you’re going for, but we have three varying degrees of “intensity”.
We are major fans of The New OxyELITE Pro Formula by USPLabs. Over the past few years, nothing has exceeded the number of true success stories generated by OxyELITE Pro users. 2-3 of these little purple capsules will make you feel incredibly focused throughout a day.
MTS Drop Factor is made by Marc Lobliner (author of the free diet book we give to you when you sign up to our newsletter) and has a perfect, female-friendly blend of 125mg of caffeine and an all-natural antioxidant and lipid-burning blend that has made it Mike’s girlfriend’s favorite caffeine source.
ErgoShred is even more “customizeable”, with 50mg caffeine per cap, so everyone can enjoy it no matter what their tolerance is. It also has some incredible natural dopamine boosters that make you feel extremely good.
Typically, thermogenics are used twice in a day: before breakfast, and mid-afternoon (usually 7-8 hours after the first dose). It is best if one of those two dosages can be a pre-workout dosage, so that you can get the energy benefit from it.Here are some of the benefits of natural fat burners:
- Provide energy to power you through intense workouts and give you energy for the day. Many people will feel tired when running a lower calorie diet so these help fight fatigue.
- Shredding fat/toning muscles while maintaining strength.
- Stimulate increased metabolic activity.
- Promotes the breakdown of stored fatty acids for the generation of energy.
- Can help suppress/regulate appetite.
Cycle Your Stimulants!
Fat burners (and all stimulant-based products) need to be “cycled”, 8 weeks on 4 weeks off. Follow the directions on the bottle and drink plenty of water.
We suggest that during your “4 week off” period, this is the true test of your diet. It’s very easy to lose weight when using OxyELITE Pro and working out hard – we kid you not – it’s that good.
But the real test is if you can continue dropping fat (or at least maintaining) when you are not using a thermogenic. If you start to gain during your off-cycle, then your diet is not yet up to speed.
As a note, the stimulant-based products are really the only things on this list that need to be cycled. You can take whey protein forever — it does not cause kidney damage — and the same goes for the healthy fats listed above and the amino acids listed below.
What About that Thing I Saw on Dr. Oz…?
While we’re on the subject of fat burners, you might be wondering what we think about a few things you’ve recently seen on TV.
Some products contain certain tea/coffee extracts, sources of L-carnitine (which is in ErgoShred mentioned above), or even raspberry ketones that were made famous by Dr. Oz.
While there is scientific evidence that supports their validity in weight management and loss I consider them a “bonus” in a supplement stack as they can cost you a pretty penny.
In my opinion these are part of the latest “diet fads” that we don’t want you to get too wrapped up in. Though they do have some health benefits, it’s best put this way: “You’ll get more mileage out of an extra cardio session, eating more green veggies, or dropping some sugar rather than spending more on the latest and greatest fad”.
The fact is, we can drone on and on about a ton of extracts that all show a little bit of fat burn. That’s why so many formulations work. But at some point, you need to stop watching TV, stop reading studies that show small effects, and get your ass into the gym and into the produce aisle at the grocery store.
If you can find an affordable, stimulant-free product with these ingredients in it, by all means give it a go. However, things like raspberry ketones and green coffee extract are usually for those on a larger budget, and won’t hold a candle to the likes of OxyELITE Pro, Drop Factor, or ErgoShred.
Start simple and save your money on the TV nonsense – it’s the diet that’s key.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)BCAA Supplements are a must have when dieting, especially during workouts. We are big fans of working out on an empty stomach, otherwise known as “fasted training”. If you don’t get too light-headed, it’s great because it burns fat like crazy.
But there’s a problem with that – empty stomach workouts also burn muscle, as your brain and body need to get amino acids, and when they’re not readily available in your bloodstream/stomach… they’re gonna get them from your precious muscle mass.
This “catabolism”, as it’s known, literally tears your muscles apart and will make you lose weight in all the wrong places.
The solution is to take amino acids before and during workouts, especially if you’re low on calories or on an empty stomach. They don’t get digested, but rather get absorped right from small intestine. This is because they are “free form” (unlike the aminos that come from your whey protein shake), and there’s no “peptide bond” to break down.
This means your brain and muscles get aminos fast – fast enough to help prevent muscle breakdown and keep the energy coming from your fat cells.
Amino acids used to taste terrible, so they were often taken in capsule form. No longer the case! You get a far better value when drinking a powdered mix.Cellucor, Scivation, and USPlabs make awesome complete BCAA products that will help maintain that lean muscle mass, all wihile fighting fatigue during exercise.
Our top three:
- Scivation Xtend
This is the product that finally made amino acids taste great. Watermelon is extremely sweet, but is a favorite, followed by blue raspberry.
- USPLabs Modern BCAA+
Unlike our other two recommendations, Modern BCAA is naturally flavored, and has no artificial colors. It has some bonus aminos as well. While Xtend tastes better, some people don’t want that coloring and flavoring. If that is you, then this is your answer.
- Cellucor Beta-BCAA
Absolutely delicious, with two ingredients known as beta alanine and HICA, both of which boost endurance.
- Scivation Xtend
And that covers our stack. If you’ve made it this far, we thank you for reading.
Coupled with the right nutrition, weight/cardio training plan and a desire to succeed, this stack will simply get you there healthier and faster. It won’t do it alone, but it will help you along the way.
“Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.” – Unknown
Written by Colby Strunk, edited by Mike Roberto.