Protein shakes are almost synonymous with working out, but they are far from the only supplements out there targeting those hoping to achieve their health and fitness goals.

For people getting into health and fitness, either returning from a long lay-off or trying it out for the first time, knowing what supplements to take, or whether to take them at all, can be overwhelming.

Supplements are always on social media and in the news, and just anywhere you look, sometimes presented as a magic bullet.  Consumers are continuously bombarded with advertisements for products which promise to help them achieve a particular look or lifestyle.

Unfortunately, exercise physiologists say there is no “magic bullet” to a healthy lifestyle. There’s some that might aid you in your goals, but other issues need to be addressed first.

When it comes to things like weight loss and improving long-term health, it’s changing your lifestyle so that it can be done forever, versus what can you do for the next four to six weeks without falling off the bandwagon.

The rise of internet shopping has allowed suppliers or influencers to sell directly to customers with just the click of a link but there is risk in not buying from a reputable outlet.

Part of that risk stems from the level of regulation for these products, they do not have to be doing what they say they’re going to do. With well-known low-risk ingredients, usually with a long history of use, vitamins and mineral products, may be assessed for quality and safety but not efficacy.

Before going any further, it’s important to remember supplements are just that — supplements. As in, supplementary to a balanced, healthy diet.

There’s so much more that can be addressed before you even consider a supplement. Because at the end of the day, a supplement is just there to supplement your current lifestyle, not to fill any massive holes.


Supplements are only beneficial if you’re ticking the fundamental health goals of sleep, diet and exercise.

However there are some supplements with a hefty amount of research behind them, with protein and creatine being the most popular.

If you are consistently in the gym, working hard, you’ve got a program that’s suited towards your goals, you feel like you’re starting to tick the goals with your nutrition as well. Once you’ve got those bases covered, that’s when nutritionists start to recommend something like protein and creatine.

Specifically, you want a protein that is high in [amino-acid] leucine, which is an essential amino acid. Leucine is essential for developing or improving muscle protein synthesis.  When you go to the gym, your muscle fibres break down, you need them to rebuild to get stronger, and to increase your lean mass. That’s muscle protein synthesis.

Protein could be particularly useful for people on vegetarian or vegan diets, who could struggle to achieve a high amino acid profile from their diet.  Research suggests 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, through diet and supplementation, is optimal for someone attempting to gain muscle.

Creatine, specifically creatine monohydrate, is a naturally occurring compound involved in the supply of energy for muscle contraction, and adding more to your diet will help restore energy between sets. It’s one of the most researched compounds in the health and fitness space, and is considered safe for most people.

Adding protein and creatine to your diet could help build muscle, but they aren’t necessary for improving health and fitness.  They could improve your athletic performance and help you reach your goals, but there are far more important factors to get right.  Achieving your goals comes down to consistent application over an extended period of time.


In terms of just general health, and improving your fitness, some say that sleep is always king.  A lot of people underestimate the power of consistently getting good sleep. Sleep plays into your hunger hormones, it plays into how well you’re going to build muscle and recover and grow.

Adults should be aiming for between seven and nine hours sleep per night. Anything less is considered sleep deprivation.  Beyond sleep, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per week (around 22 minutes per day) which can range from walking to lifting weights, and aim for a balanced diet, where they consume fewer calories than they burn.

There are no shortcuts to improved health, but it only takes a small change to start the journey.