It’s supplementary, my dear Watson

The common mistake for some it to believe that they can ‘exercise their way out of a bad diet’. But as discussed in my post: The Secret of your Success, Diet with Exercise is critical to keeping yourself fit and well. That being said, for most busy people it is a constant struggle to strike the right balance of vitamins, proteins and fats etc. when eating food alone. Also, for most active gym-goers, higher quantities of some nutrients are needed daily (such as protein for example). Often in an attempt to increase these it can lead to unwanted excessive consumption of others, like saturated fats. This is where supplements can have an important part to play in your diet.

As a lifetime drug-free former competitor, I have obviously tried and probably wasted alot of money on different supplements over the years. Besides the basic Vitamin tablets, there are some core supplements I think are beneficial and are well worth adding to your diet (not to mention safe). So to save you time and money, let me share of these with you:


Any serious gym-emphuiast should be supplementing Protein in their diet. Protein helps not only to increase muscle density and mass – assisting weight-loss through raising the metabolism – but also heals injury and helps your general health and well-being (see article on Protein).

There is a mind boggling amount of Protein supplements on the market these days from which to choose, whether powders to bars. Many are much-of-a-muchness (unlike the old days), so personally when choosing protein, I tend to look out for the source and concentration, quantity of low-impact carbs and taste (see article on protein bars). Although it may seem superficial, Taste will be a big deal if it puts you off taking it altogether!

Ideally, you would look to consume no more than 20-30g of protein per meal, as the body will be unable to process more than this. Most typical athletes aim to for 1-2g per kilogram body-weight (approx. 1g per pound), whilst the typical Bodybuilder would look at 2-3g/kg.

Whey Protein

Whey Protein is a dairy-based fast-digesting protein which is good for pre and post workout supplementation. Typically available in powdered isolate form or protein bars, this protein is my go-to supplement to help muscle repair and building.

Calcium Casinate

Calcium Casinate is a dairy-based slow-release protein which is best consumed before bedtime, since it provides amino acids throughout the night.

Plant-based Protein (with Amino Acid supplements)

Unlike the dairy proteins, plant based protein is ‘incomplete’, which means it is basically missing some essential amino acids, required to fully consume the protein. However, by eating a variety of plant proteins together with amino acid supplements, this can appear a ‘complete protein’, thus a good alternative to the above. This is good news particularly for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.


Creatine occurs naturally in the body and where it helps to fuel the muscles during exercise; increasing mass and strength. Supplementation is through creatine monohydrate which is typically synthetically produced although can be extracted from red meat. It has been around now for several decades and is one of the most tested and trusted supplements available. Indeed many athletes and footballers rely on it to provide energy during high-intensity workout.

Personally, I have found best results by taking 5g of Creating Monohydrate with Juice prior to exercise. Ensuring to take a two-week gap every 3-4 months (typically when I run out), so the body does not become used to supplementation, and stop producing it. One side effect I have noticed though, is it can cause some cramping during prolonged exercise, unless you drink plenty of water (which you should do anyway).

Codliver oil

Codliver Oil has been a supplement of choice for generations. Thankfully it is now in capsule form; I remember with horror the taste in my mouth all day as a youth!

Although its been around for a while, its benefits should not be understated. Being rich in Vitamin D, it helps to maintain strong and healthy bones and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the joints – a common complaint of many aging weight-lifters, such as myself.

For those of use who live in less sunny climates, Codliver Oil should be a necessary part of our diet – gym emphusiast or otherwise.

Conjugated Hydroxy Linoliec Acid (CLA)

CLA is an essential fatty acid which occurs naturally in meat and dairy. It has been shown to be an effective supplement for fat-loss, where retention of muscle mass is desired (the holy-grail). It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with injury and recovery.

However, because it is an Omega-6 fatty acid, it is advised that consumption not be in large quantities, especially in a low Omega-3 diet. For this reason, personally, I like to supplement with CLA on an irregular basis; normally on occasions where I need a boost to lose weight – around summertime or prior to beach holiday.


Beta Alanine is perhaps the least well known of the supplements I have listed here. It is an amino acid which has shown to improve exercise performance and increase muscle mass.

In the past when I was lifting heavier and training hard, I found this beneficial, since its effect is best noted as part of a high-intensity training routine. These days however, I tend not to take this my workouts are less intense.

In conclusion, supplementing the diet is advised for active gym-goers, who want to increase muscle, or simply tone. Relying on food alone will not only be difficult to manage, but will end up a costly afair.

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