The supplement market is worth billions and continues to grow. Even protein was once frowned upon, but now you can find it infused into a Mars Bar while filling up for petrol.
You can find anything on the supplement market if you look hard enough, but should you be using everything out there? MF highlights the evidence-based supplements – scientifically proven to actually do what they claim – and how they can support your fitness goals.
Supplements for low energy
Iron and vitamin B12
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you need to be mindful of your iron and vitamin B12 intake. These micronutrients are primarily sourced from red meat and the removal of them from your diet can lead to lethargy.
It’s difficult to reach our required intake of D3 from our diets, therefore we rely heavily on sunlight. To add to this difficulty, the UK isn’t blessed with Mediterranean weather, which can lead to many suffering from vitamin D deficiency in the winter. From September to April, consider supplementing with vitamin D3.
Follow a good diet with a large variety of foods and this shouldn’t be necessary. However, for those of you who recognise you might not be getting enough nutrients in, a multivitamin can help. Bear in mind you get what you pay for when it comes to multivitamins. The cheaper brands are poor quality and often result in little absorption of the nutrients.
Supplements for heavy resistance training
Whey protein is one of the most popular supplements in the fitness world, and for good reason: it’s fast-acting and provides a ‘complete’ source of protein to ramp up recovery. That means it stimulates your muscle growth effectively and quickly, which is exactly what you want when you’ve just squeezed out a set of squats to failure.
Having a source of protein after your workout is important, but the anabolic window – the idea you have to get protein in as soon as possible after a session – is a bit of a myth.
If you ate a meal containing a protein source before working out, there’s no huge rush to have another serving of protein immediately after leaving the gym. To stimulate optimal muscle growth, aim to have a serving of protein every three to four hours.
Creatine is one of the most scientifically researched supplements on the market, and it can take your training to the next level. It can help you push out those extra reps, promote recovery and contribute to an array of general health properties.
Creatine monohydrate is the most effective, and it’s easily available in most health stores. The aim of supplementing with creatine is to ‘saturate’ your muscles, because creatine is already naturally occurring. It’s perfect for any athlete participating in intermittent sports (regular bouts of sprinting) and anyone undertaking a long-term conditioning plan.
Supplements for endurance events
Not only can it enhance your strength workouts, caffeine can be effective in most sports, and particularly anything endurance-based.
By reducing your perception of fatigue, you can push yourself to a higher level, for longer. Take a shot, gel or preferred supplement form 60 minutes before the start of competition.
Nature’s rocket fuel, beetroot juice has seen a lot of research and attention in the last decade, and quite rightly. The nitrates within beetroot juice cause vasodilation (essentially the widening of blood vessels). This leads to enhanced oxygen delivery to your heart and muscles, reducing the oxygen cost of exercise.
But these superpowers come at a price: beetroot juice isn’t renowned for being a thirst quencher and some can’t stomach it at all. If you can, take two Beet It Sport Nitrate 3000 shots (250ml) two-and-a-half to three hours before competition.
Supplements for muscle soreness
Tart cherry juice (using Montmorency cherries)
Tart cherry juice is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been proven to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time in multiple exercise formats. If you’re completing a particularly intense bout of exercise or competition phase, it can be very effective.
Use it sparingly, though. Overuse, in your regular training, can reduce your physiological adaptation (which is always the end goal).
It’s a potent anti-inflammatory that’s not only effective for muscle soreness but a plethora of other health benefits.
If you can’t get two portions of oily fish into your diet per week, you should consider supplementing with omega-3 capsules. Make sure you take the capsules with food to avoid a nasty aftertaste.