The supplement industry in 2019 consumed approximately 167.8 Billion dollars of American money and is expected to reach 306.8 billion by 2026. It is the world's second-largest economy. With our ‘want, it now attitudes of modern-day society and ‘quick fix’ approaches, it's easy to see why we crave a solution in a pill. It’s no argument that supplements have saved lives and are a medical miracle, however, there is nothing that compares to real food when we want to nourish our bodies. Let me explain when to use supplements and when to choose real food.
What supplements actually work?
The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) position stand is that “the use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet” (2). I also agree with this and believe food should always come first as nature always gets it right. However, there are a number of cases in which I believe supplements are necessary. Here are my top supplements and when to use them.
Whey Protein isolate is one of two refined form of proteins which derive from dairy products, Casein being the other protein. Remember the nursery rhyme ‘Little Miss Muffet’ who sat eating her curds and whey. Curds are the casein proteins being coagulated from milk when you make cheese, while the liquid part that remains In this process contains whey (5). Whey protein provides high levels of essential and branched-chain amino acids. Whey protein Isolates are the purest protein source available, it contains almost no lactose or fat that originally was in the milk. This makes it a safe food choice for those who are lactose intolerant. Since it is a complete protein and contains over 2mg of leucine per 30g serves, it also makes for the best sports nutrition supplement on the market. Supplementing with a whey protein isolate such as Radix Nutrition - Whey Protein DIAAS ComplexTM 1.61 can help maintain muscle tissue and prevent the catabolic breakdown of muscles during exercise, meeting protein requirements, positively to affects immune function and contributes to overall energy availability (6, 7). Protein intake that exceeds the recommended daily allowance is now widely accepted for both endurance and power athletes (5). When you’re looking to meet your protein requirements before and after exercise or need a convenient food option then whey protein isolate is your best choice. Add one scoop of Radix Nutrition - Whey Protein DIAAS ComplexTM 1.61 to smoothies, oats or milk to top up your protein requirements after long or intense exercise, especially important for women just before their periods or post-menopausal.
Vegan proteins have come a long way from the single standard soy protein option on supermarket shelves. We now have a choice of a pea, brown rice, hemp, soy, pumpkin seeds, spirulina and probably more I am unaware of. These protein varieties contain lower amounts of the amino acid leucine and overall protein per serve. You would in fact need to consume 2-4 times more of a single vegan-sourced protein to have the same amino acid profile as whey. However, there are still some great options out there such as Radix Nutrition - Plant Protein DIAAS ComplexTM 1.30 which makes a mixed vegan blend of pea protein isolate and brown rice protein isolate. By mixing the vegan proteins we can make a more complete amino profile to assist with muscle recovery (13). Make sure your product is batch tested and certified by HASTA or Informed sports.
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the human body that plays an important role in the maintenance of normal muscle function (11). Magnesium can take form in three different molecular structures; amino-acid chelate, citrate and oxide. Magnesium citrate has been shown to have a superior bioavailability when compared to the other magnesium types (10). Consuming 350mg of magnesium citrate per day may assist with reduced muscle soreness, perceived exertion and improved perceived recovery after just 10 days (12). Pillar Performance - Triple Magnesium Recovery Powder contains exactly this, with 325.6mg of magnesium citrate per 5g scoop as well as 1050mg of magnesium chelate and 427.35mg of magnesium glycerinate dehydrate.
Fish oil contains omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). PUFA’s help regulate the nervous system, blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and inflammatory functions (8). Fish oil supplementation is highly recognised as an effective health and sports supplement. It may help dampen the inflammatory response to training resulting in enhanced recovery and performance as well as reduced risk of illness (9). If you choose to supplement the recommended dose is 1000-1500mg each day. Pillar Performance - Ultra Omega Joint Freedom makes it simple for you to do this by consuming 1 tablet per day.
There is sometimes a need for other supplementation for individual cases. These may include; Caffeine (Click here for my article on caffeine), Vitamin D [Pillar Performance - D3 Sport Effect], BCAA’s [Science In Sport (SIS) - BCAA Perform], Nitric Oxide [Pure Sports Nutrition - Pure Beet Endurance] and glutamine [Science In Sport (SIS) - BCAA Perform]. Supplementing with these needs to be specific to the individual and you need to be precarious about buying the right product. See a Dietitian to help you decide if you would benefit from supplementing with any of these. I have written a whole article on caffeine and its potential performance and recovery benefits for athletes.
Are they legal?
Since the supplement industry is so big and not very well regulated by a governing body it is often hard to comprehend where your supplements have come from and if they actually contain the ingredients in which they say they do. Good companies will spend money on independently batch-testing their products to ensure they are free from contaminants/ingredients that may cause a positive doping test. The two big Independent testing organisations are HASTA and Informed-Sport.
If products have used the services of HASTA or Informed Sports they then can add their logo to their packaging and you can be sure that your product contains completely legal ingredients and that each bag/supplement contains the exact same amount of ingredients. HASTA and Informed Sports both have a list of certified products on their website (1). If you are worried about being drug tested only choose supplements that have been batch tested. All Neversecond, PREPD and Modex products are batch tested and certified free of banned substances.
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(9) Omega-3polyunsaturatedfaRyacidsintheopNmizaNonofphysicalperformance. Shei RJ, Lindley MR, Mickleborough TD Mil Med. 2014 Nov; 179(11 Suppl):144-56.
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(11) Bohl C.H., Volpe S.L. Magnesium and exercise. Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 2002;42:533–563. Doi: 10.1080/20024091054247
(12) Reno AM, Green M, Killen LG, OʼNeal EK, Pritcheb K, Hanson Z. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Muscle Soreness and Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Oct 1. Doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003827. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33009349.
(13) Gorissen SHM, Crombag JJR, Senden JMG, et al. Protein content and amino acid composi4on of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids. 2018;50(12):1685-1695. doi:10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5