"So...you take protein?"
"Is creatine going to kill me? I heard it killed some football players!"
"I'm gonna take NO X-Plode so I can get jacked!"
"The Super-Jacked-Hyper-Metabolic-Giraffe-Lung I'm taking made my preacher curl go up 10 lbs!!"
Thanks, Jackie Chan, I couldn't have said it better myself!
Here's the way it breaks down, ready? Most supplements are horse-shit. The vast majority of them aren't worth the bottle they are sold in.
Why are there so many, then? Because fools keep buying them, looking for the magic elixir. Everyone wants to be bigger, stronger, leaner or have the ability to sustain an erection for 4 hours.
Wait, wrong supplement...
NEWS FLASH: the only magic elixir is hard work. If you want the results, you gotta put in the time under the bar.
Wit all that being said; yes, there are supplements that are legitimate and worthwhile. The thing to remember is that they are called supplements for a reason; they are not intended to be the basis of your diet, but to take care of any deficiencies you might be experiencing in your healthy, well balanced diet.
EVERYONE, man and woman, should be taking a high quality multi-vitamin and fish oil capsules. The benefits of these two supplements are far reaching and well documented. I even wrote a paper a few years ago on the benefits of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and their effects on the attenuation of dementia.
Most people should be taking some sort of greens supplement as well, something like Superfood or Athletic Greens will go a long way in address anything you're not already getting from your diet.
People who are engaged in a steady, well rounded (read: not sucky) strength and conditioning program should probably consider taking a Creatine Monohydrate and a BCAA supplement. They are both essential building blocks of muscle, and recovery times will greatly decrease when taking these supplements. No, they won't kill you.
The majority of people who are working out consistently will also want to be on a protein supplement of some sort. The goal for a person who is working out should be to consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Simply, if you weigh 185 pounds, you should be striving to consume at least 185 grams of protein in a day. You know what? That's pretty hard. I have a tough time doing it, and I really work at it. Thats why we have supplements! Everyone has had a protein shake before, so keep doing it. Theres a million and one types of protein out there, so just make sure you buy yours from a reputable source. Next question? Whey or casein? Whey is a faster digesting source of protein, which is why most people take that after their workout. Casein is a much slower digesting enzyme that is easily found in cottage cheese. For this reason, a lot of guys will house some cottage cheese right before bed, so their system has something to work on all night.
(Yes cottage cheese is kinda gross. Just eat it, it will make you diesel.)
Women, the only thing you really need to do differently from the men is to make sure you get a quality Calcium supplement that has around 600 IU's of Vitamin D in it for proper absorption.
The last supplement I want to talk about is glucosamine/chondroitin. This is a joint supplement that has been believed for some time to help re-grow/repair cartilage in aching joints. There have been several studies done on the effects of this supplement (they usually come packaged as one pill), with varying results. Some say it works, some say its snake oil. My personal experience with it is that I feel better when I am on it. I've had several professors say the same thing to me about their experience. Maybe the placebo effect is at play? Regardless, it will not hurt you if you take it; so if you can afford it, go for it!
Remember, it's not the supplements you choose to use, but the hard work you put in in the kitchen and in the gym. Now go lift something heavy!