The big questions: what supplements can I take to enhance my performance? What supplements will help me reduce body fat? What supplements are going to make me stronger?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that food should always come first. Supplements shouldn’t be considered until you have the foundations already laid with your diet.
I will talk you through some of the most talked-about supplements, their effectiveness, and whether or not it is worth adding them.
First up, CREATINE!
Creatine is one of the most talked-about supplements in the sport/performance nutrition world — and for good reason! It is one of the most effective, well-researched, safest and cheapest supplements.
Creatine is an incredible supplement, whether you intend to gain muscle, increase strength, focus on performance, maintain muscle mass or drop body fat. Whatever your goals, I strongly recommend adding a creatine supplement.
Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It increases your capacity to produce ATP energy (i.e., your body’s energy currency). When taken in supplement form, it increases your body’s phosphocreatine stores and produces more ATP, enhancing performance.
Evidence also suggests that supplementing with creatine can help enhance muscle growth. Whether you are looking to build muscle, drop body fat, or maintain your current physique, this will be advantageous.
Regarding dosing, take 3-5g of creatine monohydrate powder daily. You can get creatine through food alone, but to get 3-5g as recommended, you would need to eat around 1kg of beef or cod daily, which is a lot of food! You don’t need to have a loading phase of 20g per day for five days unless you’re looking to gain the benefits for competition within a week, as it can take 3-4 weeks to maximise phosphocreatine stores.
As it’s one of the cheapest and safest supplements out there, and a vast amount of evidence backs the various benefits, I would seriously look into this.
Next up, PROTEIN POWDERS.
One of the most popular questions I get asked is, “Should I have a protein shake straight after my workout?”
The short answer is that a protein shake has no magic powers over what a chicken breast contains.
Protein shakes are a dietary supplement, which means they should not replace food, but may be added for convenience or to help meet your daily protein requirements.
Whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle, a protein supplement may be worth adding to your diet. However, as with everything, always opt for food first.
Protein supplements, which provide amino acids to the body, help promote muscle gain and improve performance and recovery between sessions. So, if your goals include muscle gain, improving your strength or overall performance, and you’re looking for ways to increase your protein intake or a more convenient way to increase protein, then a protein supplement could be for you.
On the other hand, if your primary goal is fat loss, protein intake is also essential! Ensuring you have adequate protein in your diet will help you to retain muscle when losing weight — remember, it’s the fat we want to lose, not the muscle! The other massive benefit of protein is out of the three macronutrients; it is the most satiating — meaning that it will keep you feeling the fullest compared to fats or carbs. This is why basing snacks on a protein source can help you stay full between meals and why ensuring you have a good source in each meal is essential. Ultimately, controlling appetite will be vital in reducing cravings and overeating.
The bottom line is that a supplement form of protein is not superior to whole foods. You can get adequate protein through foods alone. However, a protein supplement may benefit you for convenience in helping meet your daily protein requirements. Remember, overeating any macronutrient or food will lead to weight gain; protein is still calories! Don’t be sucked in when you see ‘high protein’ everywhere and think it’s magic!
You can find many different whey and plant-based protein supplements in stores and online. Aim for one that is natural and not packed with unnecessary artificial ingredients.