Updated: Nov 3
As a proponent of obtaining nutrients from a well-balanced diet, I strive to limit my supplement intake. However, there are a few supplements that I find beneficial and comfortable incorporating into my routine. In this article, I will explore the advantages of my four favourite supplements: creatine, protein powder, theanine, and electrolytes.
Supplement 1: Creatine
I take this every day, even on the days I am not training. 5g, or roughly one table spoon does the trick.
The main benefit of creatine is the refuelling of energy during short and intense bouts of exercise, like a gym workout.
When we do short and intense bouts of exercises (sprinting, weightlifting, anything under 10 seconds) we use up a molecule called ATP. When we cannot replenish ATP fast enough, we switch to another mode of fuel and we slow down a bit. For example, when we sprint, we can only sprint all out for 8-12 seconds before we notice our speed slowing. Part of that is a diminishing store of ATP
Creatine helps regenerate ATP. So by increasing our stores of creatine, we can replenish ATP faster and work more within those 8-12 seconds. Essentially it allows us to train a little bit harder, which will yield a little more results.
I personally find a quick (1-2 weeks) change in strength when I start using it, and a quick decline in strength when I stop using it. That's completely normal, and if you experience the same decline after using it don't worry about it.
Main draw back: you have to take it daily because you need to saturate your creatine stores in your body. It doesn't work if you take it sporadically.
Supplement 2: Protein powder
I mainly take protein powder for their taste, and the fact that it adds protein to my day is a nice side effect.
If you have no dietary restrictions, you can easily eat enough protein through your diet. However, if you notice that you are lagging in protein intake, then adding some protein powder is an easy solution.
Remember that you need at least 1.2g of protein per kg of body weight daily. You can eat more if you want, but that is my minimal requirement for most of my clients.
So if you weight 60 kg (132 pounds), then you need to eat every day at least 60kg x 1.2 = 72g of protein.
My favourite protein powder is this one. I am not affiliated with it in any ways, I just really like it.
Supplement 3: Theanine
I take this whenever I want to have a really good sleep. this could be after a very intense hike, or if I haven't slept well 2 nights in a row. I take this quite rarely to be honest because I am fairly good sleeper.
Theanine is an amino acid the helps us relax. I take it before going to bed, but it also can also be useful when we want to focus.
Here is an excerpt from Examine.com:
"After consumption, L-theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain activity by promoting increased alpha-waves, a pattern of brain activity associated with a more relaxed state. The tendency of L-theanine to increase alpha waves may explain its stress and anxiety reducing effects. In animal studies, L-theanine has been shown to affect neurotransmitter signaling in the brain, but these effects have been less explored in humans. The mechanisms behind the synergistic effect of L-theanine and caffeine on cognition are not completely understood, but its relaxation-promoting properties are likely responsible for the reduced anxiousness and jitters associated with caffeine use."
Supplement 4: Electrolytes
I only use these when I go on long hikes/ski trips.
The main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. I usually just look for tablets that are made for sports and don't overthink too much about the ratios.
Electrolytes are essential for basic cell function however I can't say that they prevent cramping. I will write another blog on electrolytes/cramping in the future.
For now, all I can say with certainty is that when I don't take electrolytes during long bouts of exercise I feel more tired, but when I take electrolytes I feel better and can keep going for longer.
These four supplements—creatine, protein powder, theanine, and electrolytes—form the foundation of my supplementation routine. Remember, they are intended to complement a balanced diet, not replace it. Prioritize obtaining nutrients from whole foods whenever possible.
If you desire more information on supplements, feel free to reach out.