Fitness Supplements: What, When, How & Why

Now before we get into the detail, let’s make one thing clear. We’re not saying you need to take fitness supplements. Or that you should. It’s a personal choice. It comes down to each individual’s needs. The purpose of this article is to give you the lowdown on some of the most commonly used fitness supplements so you can make your own informed decision.

So here are some of the most commonly used fitness supplements:

Protein

What & Why:

Protein is the building block of muscle tissue and it makes sense that if you want to develop and tone your muscles, you need to give them fuel. Expert sports nutritionists recommend athletes and those who train hard at the gym get between 20-30% of their calories from protein. When you work it out in terms of food that’s a LOT of eggs or chicken or whatever which can be expensive or impractical for most.

Protein supplements fill this void, providing a convenient way to up your protein intake that is often less costly than consuming the equivalent amount of animal protein. They are often flavoured so they taste nothing like their source product.

The other advantage of protein supplements is that they are available from non animal sources such as peas, hemp and soya which works for vegetarians, vegans and those concerned about the environmental impact of consuming too much animal protein.

The most common forms of protein supplement are whey which is the easiest to absorb and casein (both from milk). You can also get egg derived protein powders. Protein supplements are supported by a good amount of scientific evidence as to their usefulness and safety.

When: Post-workout

How much: 20-30g (or as per pack instructions)

 

Omega 3

What & Why:

Omega 3, commonly found in fish oils (although vegetarian alternatives do exist) are not necessarily a specific fitness supplement, but they merit being on the list because they are so useful. They help with everything from vision to joint health to nice skin, hair and nails. There are no known side effects and as a naturally derived product that should form part of our diets anyway, they’re a very low risk choice.

When: With food, ideally breakfast

How much: 1.5-3g  (or as per pack instructions)

 

BCAAs

What & Why:

BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are naturally part of protein-rich foods but can also be taken as a supplement for convenience. There’s a good amount of research that says they increase energy during a workout, as well as reduce muscle breakdown and promote recovery afterwards.

When: Pre and/or during a workout

How much: 6-20 g per day (or as per pack instructions, ideally in a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine)

 

Glutamine

What & why:

Glutamine is what is known as an adaptogenic amino acid. You’ll find it naturally in protein-rich foods. Glutamine is the most common amino acid in our body’s skeletal muscles and is also critical for immune system health.

Glutamine supplements are thought to support muscle growth and reduce muscle breakdown, but the science here isn’t as watertight as the previous 3 supplements. It can also help with gut health and immune system health.

When: Post-workout

How much: 8g (or as per pack instructions)

 

Creatine

What & why:

Creatine is a by-product of amino acid metabolites that is stored in our skeletal muscles. But more importantly, it’s one of the most studied fitness supplements around. It’s been proven to increase performance across a huge range of intense exercise from powerlifting to sprint times.

It acts by boosting your output during exercise so you move faster, lift bigger and train longer.

When: Pre and post workout

How much: 3g (or as per pack instructions)

 

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