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Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

Updated: Nov 27, 2019


According to a report published by a U.K.-based independent food research company the global sports nutrition market was valued at £15.7 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.0% from 2013 to 2019, to reach an estimated value of £28.7 billion-in 2019

According to a study conducted by the Swiss Society for Nutrition.

This is a massive fast growing industry with everyone competing for your hard earned cash!

Many articles are written by people with a vested interest who want you to buy these products so they benefit financially.

I will not be recommending or endorsing any brand or supplement.

As a personal trainer i get asked on a weekly if not daily basis, should i take supplements? and what should i take?

In this article i'm going to be taking a look at what happens to our muscles when we train and how to nourish and repair our body's so we get the best possible results from our hard work in the gym and where supplements can be beneficial.

If your reading this and waiting for that quick fix answer, about what that magic powder or pill to take!

well there isn't one is the simple answer but stick with me and i'll break it all down for you so that after reading this article you'll be better informed to make your own mind up whether or not you need to supplement your diet.

Getting your diet on point is key to your success

Workout supplements are progress enhancers, not progress starters.

If your current training and nutritional approach to training are not giving you the results you're aiming to achieve, then taking a pill or powder won't be the X Factor you are looking for!

Whether your aim is to drop a couple of dress sizes or gain an inch or two on your biceps the formula is the same.

First take a good look at your diet, work out how many calories you need to gain muscle and loss that unwanted body fat. Then you need to workout your Macros,

(See picture)

Whats your goal?

MACRO “macro nutrients”

Nutrients in your food.

Protein. (1 gram = 4 calories)

Fat. (1 gram = 9 calories)

Carbs. (1 gram = 4 calories)

Alcohol. (1 gram = 7 calories)

keep a food diary to track your calories and macro's by using one of the great free food tracking apps out there, my personal favourite is MyFitnessPal.

Proteins aid repair and new growth of muscle. Meats and eggs have a good source of BCAA ( Branch chain amino acids) the building blocks of muscle.

Here is a good protein intake guide for men and women who already workout regular and who have a goal to lose fat and gain lean muscle.

For an average healthy adult FEMALE whose primary goal is building muscle, getting “toned,” maintaining muscle while losing fat, increasing strength or improving performance.

1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

For an average healthy adult MALE whose primary goal is building muscle, getting “toned,” maintaining muscle while losing fat, increasing strength or improving performance.

1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Now it's easy to get enough carbs and fats in your diet but not so when it comes to protein, This is where a supplement may be required, i'll give you an example using my stats.

My current weight is 207 lb to maintain the muscle i already have i need to consume 233g's of protein per day,

so with1 large egg = 6.3g of protein and100g's of chicken breast = 31g's of protein and these two foods are high in protein you can see how hard it can be to get enough protein in your diet every day.

This is where supplements can be very useful with one small scoop of powder delivering a massive 22g's of protein it's easy to see why these products are so popular.

However there is also the flip side to this, people who do a fitness class and eat very healthy and do not need extra supplements of protein but who are seduced by the adverts of lean bodies with protein shakers.

Your body can not store extra protein so excess intake is broken down and stored as fat or secreted out of the body (money down the drain!)

What happens to your muscles when you workout?

Microscopic tears in the muscle

whether you're a seasoned body builder or an occasional jogger you would have experienced muscle soreness,

When the resistance is greater than what your body typically encounters during exercise small microscopic tears occur in the tissue, this is perfectly normal and the process of muscle hypertrophy, or muscle building, is activated.

The higher the intensity of workout the higher the chance you'll have of developing sore muscles after your exercise,

however It's important to get the balance right to accomplish your goal of muscle growth but not to over train and strain or even ruptures your muscles.

Healing process

During a workout

Intense lifting causes microscopic tears to form in the muscle fibres and connective tissue of muscles.

Old tissue is removed by the body before new tissue is synthesised. The digestion of protein provides the raw material BCAA that can be used to promote new muscle growth.

What should you be doing to get results?

The golden hour

It is essential to eat a meal of carbohydrates, protein and good fats immediately after a workout if possible,

this is when the muscle are primed to receive nutrients.

Are you training hard or training smart?

It's an easy trap to fall into thinking the more i workout the better and quicker i will see results, This is simply not true, over training is just as ineffective as under training

Take those rest days!

The rest and recovery is just as important as the workout and the nutrition, the soreness you feel after exercise is a results of the micro tears in your muscles this can occur 24 to 72 after exercise, delayed onset of muscle soreness, or DOMS for short.

Depending on the severity of the damage to the muscle fibres it can take up to 72 hours for the worked muscle to repair. This is why PT's will often put their clients on a split routine program to allow for adequate rest time for repair.


Day 1 Chest & Triceps,

Day 3 Back & Biceps.

Day 5 Legs & Shoulders.

Something to consider

It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take anything ext, but supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.

Protein supplements

We have all seen the protein shaking going on in the changing rooms.

Users may choose to take them before, during and after training to enhance performance and improve recovery, add them to meals to boost their protein, or drink them between meals as a high-protein snack, but think first whether you need them.


Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) refers to three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

BCAAs are important to ingest on a daily basis, but many protein sources, such as meat and eggs, already provide BCAAs. Supplementation is unnecessary for people with a sufficiently high protein intake (1-1.5g per kg of bodyweight a day or more). Reference Kamal Patel

What to avoid

There is no magic pill

Weight loss drug DNP linked to deaths

One product being sold illegally but still available online, mainly from suppliers based outside the UK, is 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP).

DNP is an industrial chemical that isn't fit for human consumption. It's highly toxic and causes significant side effects, and has led to at least 3 reported deaths.

DNP is thought to be particularly popular among bodybuilders, who are attracted to its promises of quick-fix rapid weight loss.

Conclusion and my thoughts

So hopefully you have all the information to make an informed choice whether you need to take a sports supplements.

With my own personal training program and as a group fitness instructor working out more than your average gym goer i do use protein supplements both pre and post workouts also as and when i need to top up my protein intake.

You need to take a good hard look into your own training program and nutritional intake and calculate if you would benefit from a taking a supplement.

Please be mindful just like over training, taking to much of any supplement can have the reverse affect of what you are trying to achieve.

To much protein can lead to dangerous side affects says

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

Please leave comments or any question may have.

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