I often get asked about what supplements people should take and whether supplements are necessary. Supplements are really individual and if you aren’t sure whether you need to take a supplement then you should consult a doctor – it can be dangerous to take some supplements that you don’t need.
That said, here are the supplements that I take and the reasons why.
Although this is pretty mainstream, it is still a supplement. I use this as I want to eat a higher protein diet but I struggle to hit my protein goals. Protein powder is a convenient way to get protein throughout the day. It is easier to whip out a shake in the gym changing room than it is to set there and eat a chicken breast. You also don’t need to worry about it going bad sitting in your bag all day.
Creatine is one of the few sports supplements that actually is actually backed up with scientific research that supports its use.
There are various energy systems in the body that we use to perform exercise (or activities) at certain intensities and durations. For high intensity, short durations (up to 6 seconds) we use a system called the creatine phosphate system, activities that would use this energy system would include lifting weights and sprinting. The way that creatine works is that it allows you to use the creatine phosphate system for longer which means that you may get a couple of extra reps of your weights or you may be able to sprint for longer at maximum intensity. It basically gives you a couple of extra seconds before the body starts using a different energy system and lactic acid starts causing that burning sensation in your muscles. Extending the amount of time that you can lift a weight by a couple of seconds may not sound like a lot, but it will support you to reach your strength, power and speed related goals. However, if you are supplementing with the hope that it will increase your endurance then it won’t – this uses a different energy system.
I have been supplementing this for about a month now and I can feel the difference when I’m in the gym. It’s pretty incredible stuff…I’m surprised it’s legal! (I’m joking it’s perfectly safe for a healthy person).
Creatine monohydrate is probably the cheapest form of creatine and that is all that you need. It is a relatively inexpensive supplement and it is one of the most effective.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in certain foods but is mainly made by our bodies on exposure to sunlight. However, living in the UK, we are not exposed to the sun enough during the autumn and winter months to make enough vitamin D so the NICE guidelines advise supplementation of 10mcg per day during these months. Personally, I have found that I am less prone to colds in winter months since I have started supplementation but that could be placebo! However, placebo is enough for me and I’ll continue to pop a pill during those long, dark months!
You can pick up vitamin D tablets quite cheaply in most supermarkets but remember to check with your GP before you supplement.
This protein-packed blueberry and banana smoothie bowl is ready in less than a minute and is simply delicious. I’ve been unwell this week, to the extent that just standing is difficult, so the only food that I’ve been able to prepare is of the quick and easy variety. That said, I’m trying to feed my body nutrients so I wasn’t going to compromise with an easy, but nutrient poor, breakfast. The frozen ingredients in the recipe make this breakfast nice and cold, which soothed my throat a treat.
I’d recommend this smoothie if you’re ill, or if you’re not because it really is good. I’ll be having this again on a busy work day.
1 banana (frozen is ideal but fresh is absolutely fine
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
A handful of frozen blueberries
2 Tablespoons of greek yogurt
150-200 ml milk of your choice
High protein granola (or whatever else you fancy)
Roughly chop the banana into your blender (I use a Nutribullet for smoothies)
Throw in the blueberries and yogurt then top with milk
So you’ve decided to count your macros (or perhaps your PT is making you) and you’re struggling to hit your protein goals. The struggle is real. I think that anybody who has transitioned from just eating whatever to eating a high protein diet has struggled with this, and I know that I really did to start with. I remember texting my friend to ask whether it was acceptable to drink four protein shakes in one day (not to be recommended btw).
So I thought that I would share my tricks and tips for hitting your protein goals, I hope you find it useful.
Eat Protein for Every Meal
It might seem a bit obvious but I say it anyway. You want to eat protein at every meal. Not only is this better for maintaining muscle (your body will thank you for a constant stream of protein), but it’s better than getting to 6pm and realising that you need to eat seven chicken breasts for your dinner to hit your goals. If you have a meal with little protein in it, you’re going to struggle to catch up the rest of the day.
You will need to base your meal around a lean protein source and then balance the rest of your meal around it. It is hard to start with but it does get easier with time. Eventually, you’ll be able to look at the things that you most commonly eat and know roughly how many grams of protein it contains.
Here is your official permission to snack! The chances are that you are not going to hit your protein targets through three meals alone, so why not have a couple of protein-rich snacks to see you through. I like skyr yogurt for this as some tubs contain up to 25g of protein without being proportionally too high in the other macronutrients. A boiled egg works well too (but stinky!). I would try and avoid shop bought protein bars because they tend to be high in sugar and calories, which would affect your balance of macros, but if you can fit them in then they’re okay for the odd treat.
One of the easiest ways to reach your protein goal is to use protein powder. This is generally a lower calorie way of getting between 25-50g of protein in in one go. Once upon a time, protein shakes were only used by bodybuilders and gym fanatics and they were chalky and claggy. I’m glad to say that things have come on a long way since then and there are some really good protein powders on the market. I would advise you to shop around and have a look at the nutritional information as they do vary in quality. Also beware of the ‘diet’ trap and the ‘woman’ trap. Often brands try and get you to part with more money by selling diet versions of their protein but read the label carefully, sometimes these diet versions are actually higher in calorie than the ‘normal’ version and are more expensive. And as regards ‘women’s’ protein? Unnecessary. Again, these are inevitably more expensive and are no more benefits. Total calories and protein calories per serving are what you want to concentrate on.
Just remember that supplements are just that, they are there to suppliment your diet and not be the main event. Try to get as much protien in as you can and then top yourself up with this. They can also be handy if you’re out and about and you need a snack as they’re just so convenient.
Add Extra Protein to Things
Rather like when your parents squashed up green vegetables and snuck them into your mashed potato, you should add extra protein to things that you are eating anyway.
One of my favourite things to do is to mix in protein powder to Greek yogurt (or even Skyr, one of the higher protein yogurts) and then maybe add some berries. Top tip, if you’re using chocolate protein powder then half a teaspoon of cocoa powder is going to make this richer and more like a chocolate dessert without messing your macros up. This is such a delicious treat that tastes really indulgent, but it’s really high in protein and can be relatively low in carbs and fats depending on the type of yogurt that you use.
You could also make an omlette with a couple of whole eggs and a couple of egg whites. This is going to increase the protein content of your omlette without adding too many additional carbs and fats. I would say though to make sure that you at least have a couple of yolks in there because a) life is for living and b) a lot of the vitamins and minerals that are found in eggs are actually found in the yolk.
But overall I just want to say, stick with it. Dietary changes are hard to start with and going from 20g of protein per day to 160g (just an example – don’t do without working out your protein requirements) is going to be a massive leap. If you are struggling, then you may want to consider bringing your protein goal up gradually. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t hitting it straight away, follow these tips, keep learning what your food is make up of and you’ll get there eventually.
Do you have any tips for getting more protein in to your diet?