If you’re training regularly, feeling healthy and taking care of your nutrition, you’ve probably considered stepping into the world of supplements. With tens of thousands of people relying on a form of them every day — typically, it’s whey or vegan protein supplements that are the most popular within a billion-pound industry — it could be worth implementing them into your own training lifestyle, whether your goal is building muscle, improving endurance or dropping weight.
As ever, though, there are a few things you need to know first before you start piling up your basket with training supplements. Here, Rachel Butcher (ANutr), Head of Nutrition at Natural Fitness Food, walks you through a couple of pointers to help you identify which supplements you may need to help your training, improve results and aid your recovery.
“Creatine is possibly the most researched sports supplement on the market. It’s made up of amino acids and raises the body’s levels of phosphocreatine in the muscles. It’s a high-energy compound that’s used to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during high-intensity exercise,” explains Butcher. “Therefore, saturating creatine stores can have a beneficial effect when performing high-intensity bouts of exercise such as sprints and heavy lifts, particularly when working through repeated sets.”
Similarly, creatine has been found to increase strength, maintain high-intensity power output and aid recovery between sets: all crucial to building and maintaining muscle mass. Shoot for 3-5g per day, advises Butcher, and be sure to opt for creatine monohydrate – most research has been on Creapure, too, so look for that on the label.
Often interpreted as a training supplement rather than a vital macronutrient for your diet, protein is one of the most popular supplements out there, seen as a secret elixir to attaining a cover model’s physique. The reality isn’t so simple — ”as well as being a vital macronutrient responsible for a host of functions from hormonal balance to bone health, protein is mostly known for its effect on muscle protein synthesis,” explains Butcher. “It’s a naturally occurring process in which protein is produced to repair muscle breakdown and damage.”
Training regularly? You need around 1.4-2.2g/kg of body weight per day. So, someone weighing 75kg should shoot for 105-165g protein per day, or more if you’re pushing the needle with your training. “That can be hard to manage for some. For example, those on plant-based diets, those in a calorie deficit, or those who travel regularly,” says Butcher. “In short, protein supplementation can be a helpful means to seeing continued progression.”
“Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that’s produced naturally in the body and aids in the production of carnosine,” says Butcher. “Our muscles naturally contain the compound which helps to regulate acid build-up, the primary cause of fatigue, allowing our muscles to perform harder and for longer.” However, the jury’s out on whether beta-alanine is worth your hard-earned cash, as studies have only found small benefits of supplementation equating to a 0.2-3% increase in performance during continuous and intermittent exercise of 30 seconds to 10 minutes.