Diet & Nutrition

Are Workout Supplements Necessary?

Do you need to take workout supplements?

When you’re jumping into a new health regime or workout routine, it can be tempting to invest in supplements because everyone is taking them, right? But the truth is, a supplement should be the last thing to consider on top of lifestyle, eating and exercise habits. This means that a lot of people are jumping the gun a little when they turn straight to supplementation. 

What supplements do people take?

There are food supplements that are taken in addition to a healthy diet to top up any deficiencies. Then there are non-food supplements that are performance-based to help you with your workouts. 

We’ll go over both in this post!

Protein Powder

Protein powder can come in many forms, with the most common one being whey protein however you can get vegan forms of it. A standard whey protein is suggested for most people, then a vegan alternative for those of you who are vegan or have dietary requirements such as lactose intolerance. 

It’s important to know that it doesn’t only need to be taken after a workout, as adequate protein intake is important daily. It should be used to top up your protein intake, on top of a healthy diet including various sources of protein from food.

A common misconception of protein powder is that it’s just for people who are bodybuilders because it makes you gain muscle – but that’s not true! Adequate intake is important for everyone as it supports our bodies in numerous ways as well as helps us feel satisfied. It also won’t make you gain muscle on its own, you have to train for that specifically.

Need help with your diet?

I’ve got two online programmes that will help you change the way you think about food and dieting. 

Vitamins and Minerals

If your diet doesn’t provide all the nutrients that your body needs, you can take a specific supplement or a multi-vitamin to cover all the bases. You’re more likely to need this in cases where you’re not eating certain foods, such as vegan or lactose-free diets for example, but even people who do eat animal-based products can have deficiencies if they don’t have a well-balanced diet.

Vitamin D (included in most multi-vitamins) is commonly needed for those who don’t live in a tropical climate as we get this from the sun. Adequate Vitamin D intake can help improve mood, health and exercise performance and recovery. 

Omega-3 fatty acids (from fish) can help reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, improve muscle growth and can even help with depression. 

Carbs & Electrolytes

These are much more exercise specific as some of us will need carbohydrate repleshiment during longer workouts (90 minutes +) which can be done with things like carbohydrate powder or dextrose tablets. 

Electrolytes are ions such as sodium, potassium and calcium that help your body regulate water storage. They help us replenish the minerals we lose from sweating, so if you sweat a lot during training, it will benefit you to have electrolyte supplements rather than just water alone. 

You get electrolytes from some types of fruit and veg, and adequate salt (sodium) intake is also an important part of this. You shouldn’t be worried about salt intake unless you’ve been advised to avoid it by a medical professional, as it’s not going to negatively affect a healthy individual who exercises regularly.

I take this combined carbs & electrolytes powder from Awesome Supplements.

Suggested performance-based supplements

Now moving onto performance-based supplements, we have Creatine which helps your muscles produce energy for your workouts. I must point out that creatine is a molecule that is naturally found in the muscles. There aren’t any known negative side effects of taking creatine and it’s beneficial for heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise. It’s not that beneficial for endurance-based exercise. It’s also non-hormonal and can be used for men and women. 

Next, we have Beta-Alanine. This helps combat acid build up in the muscles during your sets in the gym as well as triggering a process that will give you more energy. Again, this is a naturally occurring substance in the body and a supplement will simply add to that. It will help reduce muscular fatigue though there is a side-effect of feeling tingles on the skin. 

So if you train regularly and you feel like you could use a little boost, these should help you. If you’re going to take these supplements it’s most beneficial to take them daily.

I take a combination of Creatine and Beta-Alanine in a product called Awesome Performance Blend.

supplements and protein powder

Other workout supplements

Another supplement that can benefit your workouts is Citrulline Malate. An amino acid compound that improves blood flow to the muscles, increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery. This is commonly found in pre-workout (along with Creatine and Beta-Alanine) as well as caffeine. 

A potential issue with caffeine being added to pre-workout is that it’s going to be a large portion that we don’t necessarily need as it depends on the individual’s sensitivity to it. For this reason, I take a pre-workout without caffeine and have caffeine tabs separately if I need them.

You can find this caffeine-free pre-workout here.

A common claim I see from nutrition supplement providers is how their supplement is superior to pre-workout because of its natural ingredients. However, we must remember that these chemicals are naturally occurring in the body and though they are produced in a lab, these are the components that improve sports performance. Therefore a product without these ingredients will not benefit us in the same way. 

Key Takeaways

  • We don’t necessarily need food supplementation as most of us should be able to get everything we need from our diets. However, as many people struggle with adequate protein intake, supplementing this can be beneficial.
  • Vitamin and mineral requirements largely depend on our food intake but we shouldn’t assume that we’re getting everything we need.
  • Workout based supplementation may benefit you, but you should still have all of the other areas covered, i.e. sleep, hydration, good diet, etc.
  • Workout supplementation is not from caffeine alone and can’t be substituted for products that don’t have the ingredients listed above.
  • A lot of supplements that people take including BCAAs and Glutamine can be acquired from food or protein powders and don’t need to be taken separately. 

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By Kim

Hi, I'm Kim! I'm a Fitness & Nutrition Coach from the UK and owner of Barefaced Fitness.

I help women achieve their goals through effective training methods and creating healthy balanced diets. I offer a strong focus on strength, movement and simplified nutrition for a healthier lifestyle.