By Awesome Supplements, Read time: 11 minutes
It’s no secret that there are a lot of supplements out there to choose from, ranging from the vitamins and minerals with which we’re all familiar, to exotic or extremely scientific-sounding things like guaranine or 1,3,7-Trimethyl-1H-purine- 2,6(3H,7H)-dione (both of those are just caffeine, by the way).
This inevitably raises the question “what works and what doesn’t?”
But let's be honest, even that doesn't matter. You don't need to know the list of supplements that are potentially effective. What you want to know is what will benefit you in particular, so that's what we're going to help you work out today.
Now of course you’re reading this on a supplement website, which means we’re going to say that you should buy all of our stuff, right? Not at all.
While we have done a great deal of due diligence to produce a line of supplements we're really proud of, so much so we don’t lose any sleep over recommending to even our friends and family, it’s STILL not the case that we recommend everyone takes all or even most of them. Supplements, like specific exercises, de-stressing techniques, and household maintenance tips, only work if you need them. Different supplements do different things and so they are useful for different people, and different goals.
In short there aren't many people who would benefit from everything we make, and as such we would like this guide to be the definitive answer to the question “what would help me!?”.
We’ve split this into three phases, phase 1 for someone starting out and looking to cover their basic needs, phase 2 for the athletically minded person looking to have more performance output in the gym or in their sport, and phase 3 for the competitor pushing for results and maximum performance all while recovering as quickly as possible.
Of course, before any of this it's important to make sure your overall dietary approach is pretty good and in line with your goals, and your training also needs to be appropriate, but because you're the kind of person who'll take the time to read blogs like this we're going to assume you have those things in the bag.
Nice work on that, by the way.
Phase 1 supplements are things that are likely to be useful for just about everyone, not because they do anything particularly ground-breaking, but in fact for the exact opposite reason – because they’re relatively simple. These can be loosely grouped under the heading of ‘food supplements’ because they are dietary supplements designed to add nutrients to the diet that may be lacking, or otherwise aren’t optimal, and thus are necessary for maintaining normal functioning and health.
Someone adopting a plant-based diet, for example, is more likely to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals (iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12), someone in a calorie deficit is less likely to be able to maintain adequate micronutrient intake across the board simply due to low overall intake, and those who are lactose intolerant may be lacking in calcium. Finally, most people North of Madrid in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to fall short of their vitamin D (the sunshine nutrient) needs (1) (that’s all of the UK and most of Northern America).
Because of this a multivitamin such as AWESOME DEFENCE is a great investment. This acts like a ‘safety net’ ensuring that no matter what, you’ve got the best chance of getting all of the micronutrition you need without needing to micromanage your meals or otherwise think about it at all.
Moving on from there we can look at Omega-3 supplements like AWESOME OMEGA, which provide the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. Unless you eat oily fish very regularly you are likely to have a very low intake of these two and, while this is not likely to harm you significantly, supplementing with them has been shown to improve blood lipid counts (2), inflammation (3), recovery after exercise (4), and even symptoms of major depression (5). This is especially important if you follow a plant based diet, as plant based sources of Omega-3 tend to provide the fatty acid ALA, which must be converted into EPA and DHA to be useful. Unfortunately this is a very inefficient process, and so supplementation is a far more reliable way to get what you need.
In short, pretty much everyone will benefit from these two regardless of goals or health status, with the possible exception of people who have a really varied and nutrient rich diet…which may not even be possible in practice. Unsure? Get a nutrient test or track your food intake on an app like ‘Chronometer’ for a week and see if optimal nutrient intakes are observed (comparing your values to researched doses, not the Government RDA as they are quite low for some key nutrients). For research level dosing we always use Examine.com as a reference point.
Grab both together with our HEALTHY BUNDLE to save (or double your saving by signing up to a monthly subscription!)
A final supplement that could be considered useful for literally anyone is a protein supplement, such as AWESOME PROTEIN. Aiming for roughly 2.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is likely to maximise hypertrophy (6), and a little more, 2.3-3.1g per kilogram of lean body mass (bodyweight minus fat mass) may be necessary to preserve muscle mass while you’re in a calorie deficit (7). Achieving this is entirely possible through normal dietary habits, but protein supplements can make it far easier, far less expensive and thanks to the versatility of these products your diet can also be far more varied while achieving your goals!
Getting 25-50g of your daily protein from a protein powder can make a muscle building or fat loss phase much easier, and even those who simply want to lead a healthy lifestyle can benefit from the low cost and convenience offered. It can be used as a breakfast option with a piece of fruit, blended into a smoothie as a meal or snack, used in cooking, taken after the gym to tide you over, or used as a way to boost your protein intake. A very cost effective and convenient form of protein to have handy in the cupboards.
Of course powders aren't the only option for increasing your protein intake in a more convenient way. You could also opt for a protein bar, which is that snack or meal addition that you can literally have any time. We love using them as part of a quick breakfast, a snack, or pre or post gym fuel!
Not sure which protein option is right for you? Grab our SHAKE AND BAR BUNDLE to save money and make sure you're ready for every eventuality!
Next we have phase 2 supplements useful for those who are very active, and who hope to improve general gym performance. This is slightly different to Phase 1 because the supplements you see here are not designed to deliver something that can typically be consumed in the diet; rather they are things you can't realistically get from food alone but that can benefit you in specific circumstances. In brief, this group of supplements is extremely useful for those looking to build muscle, improve fitness and otherwise maximise gym performance!
The two most commonly mentioned supplements for sports and gym performance are creatine monohydrate and beta alanine, and for good reason! Creatine monohydrate is able to increase strength, hypertrophy, and the performance outcomes from high intensity interval training (8), meaning that anyone training with intensity will get more bang for their buck by throwing a dose of creatine into their water every day. Similarly, beta alanine can increase performance in hard training that lasts longer than 60 seconds (9), making it perfect for high intensity and functional training , sports, or hard conditioning. It’s because of this research that AWESOME POWER was formulated, and this is why we recommend it to anyone looking to stay on top of their game in the gym. Of course not everyone is going to need beta alanine, because while everyone does some intense training (even ultramarathon runners climb hills!), not everyone works for over 60 seconds at a time and so not everyone will benefit from this. That’s why you can also simply grab AWESOME STRENGTH – an extremely pure, flavourless creatine monohydrate supplement that you can add to any drink to elevate your results.
Alongside this, caffeine is a useful supplement for gym goers because it can increase alertness and performance in exhaustive exercise (10), while also boosting upper body strength and overall power production (11). Combining caffeine with Theanine helps to amplify caffeine's focus effects (12) and so this is the perfect pairing for staying on top of your game.
Using AWESOME FOCUS 15-30 minutes before you train can therefore help you stay sharp and get more work done, while feeling like the effort you are exerting is actually diminished (10). Thanks to Focus involving 60mg capsules you're able to personalise your dose for your needs at the time, meaning it's way more versatile than coffee, energy drinks, or other pre-workout caffeine sources, too!
The final supplement we would place in this bracket is perhaps the simplest on the list, salts. When we think of hydration we think of water, but your body doesn’t just need this to properly hydrate – it also needs the essential salts (primarily sodium and potassium) which help to properly store water where it needs to be, in the correct proportions. In extreme cases taking on too much water without salts can lead to a condition called hyponatraemia, which kills marathon runners every year. This is why we recommend AWESOME HYDRATE to anyone that sweats heavily while training, to anyone training in the heat, to anyone training at high intensity such as in high intensity and functional training, group training or HIIT training, or to anyone who will be spending a lot of time outdoors when the temperatures get hot. Our staff also take it on holiday as a hydration drink for exploring in the sun!
The final group are Phase 3 products. This is the group that are only likely to benefit specific people, as opposed to phase 1 that would be great for anyone, and phase 2 which are ideal for almost all gym goers. This is where things are only relevant for those with really specific goals or you’re simply aiming to cover all your recovery and performance angles and want all the tools you can use to help.
Firstly, let’s discuss prolonged performance.
When you are exercising continuously for over an hour at a time, one problem that you do run a risk of facing is ‘hitting the wall’ – literally running out of fuel. The same issue can be faced if you exercise intensely multiple times in the same day in quick succession. This is an acute situation where your body’s stored glucose starts to deplete so you fatigue extremely quickly, and it’s best avoided by slowly drip feeding a multiple-transporter carbohydrate into your system. Carbohydrates need to be ‘transported’ into your blood from your digestive system after you consume them, and the problem is if you only consume one kind of carbohydrate (say, glucose), you effectively limit the rate at which it can be absorbed because there is too much traffic.
Opting to combine glucose-based carbohydrates with fructose-based ones increases the rate at which carbohydrates can be absorbed, which doesn’t matter at all in day to day life, but can make a huge different if you literally need those carbohydrates right now. As such, a mixed intra-workout carbohydrate product like AWESOME ENDURE is absolutely perfect for those who are performing continuously for over an hour, or for those that are doing something multiple times in a day, such as someone doing high intensity and functional training who needs to do multiple WODs in a row for a competition or is just having a hard training day. And as a super cheap addition to your AWESOME HYDRATE it's a no brainer!
Grab the two in a bundle HERE to save.
For the more typical exerciser – the gym goer looking to get stronger and build muscle – there are various substances that can be taken beforehand to improve some aspect of your training. Citrulline malate can improve workout endurance by boosting blood flow (13), for example. Similarly, betaine can increase work capacity and may help improve muscle size (14), while certain substances like Alpha GPC may improve focus and attention late in your session (15). Overall the combination of these, such as you’d find in AWESOME BOOST can help you perform at your absolute best during a typical gym session, making it a great investment for those looking to make the most progress possible for their time investment. This is especially the case for those training through exhaustion, such as high intensity and functional training athletes.
Boost makes a perfect partner for Focus, allowing you to get the absolute most out of your sessions by improving performance from two different angles. Grab the pair in our Boost+Focus bundle HERE to save money and maximise your progress!
Finally, due to the extremely tough training session and competition situations faced by those with really specific and lofty goals, the importance of training performance is matched only by the importance of proper recovery from each session. After all, training hard and dominating the gym/track/field is useless if you can only do it once. Post workout protein shake supplementation is not necessary, but can certainly help with recovery speed, especially if you’re not going to eat for a while (someone looking to perform optimally and optimise body composition wants to aim for an intake of protein every 4-5 hours, so if you haven’t eaten for a while, and won’t for a while after the gym, a shake might be really helpful, eating when convenient later).
The final thing you may wish to consider are things that can keep you in tip-top condition longer term. Curcumin like that found in AWESOME JOINTS is a polyphenol extracted from Turmeric that acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, ensuring your joints continue to feel great week after week (16). Not only this, but it's even been found to help with other inflammatory conditions like PCOS (17) and Type 2 Diabetes (18), meaning that it's a great addition whether you're looking to maximise recovery from a tough training regime, or stay on top of a health condition.
(If using curcumin for anything other than general health and wellbeing, please consult a doctor beforehand - we are not suggesting that this is used instead of regular medicine or treatments, only that it may help alongside these things. Please seek clinical advice from professionals)
Supplements are tools. This means that you don’t only need to find the ones that work, you need to find the right ones for the job - a sledgehammer and a screwdriver both ‘work’ but there’s certainly a better choice when putting a screw into your wall to hang a picture. Every athlete and non-athlete alike have different needs, goals and dietary shortfalls, and hopefully this blog has outlined a good strategy for thinking about these as they relate to supplementation.
Don’t look at this guide like levels – it’s not that you need to master all of Phase 1 before you can move on to Phase 2 – but rather look at it like a hierarchy of priorities. Look to Phase 1 and decide if you need something, then Phase 2, then Phase 3, moving up in specificity as you go, and in line with your goals.
And of course, after reading this if you still have questions, just get in touch with us. We’re always there to help and will even jump on the phone with you to discuss your needs. Like we say, always here to help.