Close Up Of Athletes Hands Taking A Scoop Out Of Chocolate Flavored Protein Powder

Supplement Primer for Strength & Conditioning

BY Phil Wallace

Which supplements genuinely make a difference in your training?

Navigating the supplement scene can feel like a dizzying ride with all the misinformation swirling around. Athletes, coaches, and influencers are constantly singing praises for various supplements, and hey, don’t forget to punch in their referral code for that sweet discount!

Amidst the chaos, the real question is: Which supplements genuinely make a difference in your training? And where can you find some no-nonsense, science-backed info?

In this blog, I’ll cut through the industry nonsense, giving you the lowdown on the handful of supplements that actually do the trick for most athletes.

Why The Confusion Around Supplements?

The nutrition market is currently flooded with an overwhelming array of supplements, and let’s be honest, many of them are concocted with questionable ingredients solely to turn a profit. They come bearing false promises to be the panacea for all your concerns—bulk up, shed fat rapidly, skyrocket energy levels, and kiss stress goodbye? There seems to be a pill or powder for everything.

Sorting through this labyrinth of information is downright exhausting. I’ll keep it real with you: only a handful of supplements are truly essential for optimal health. This article aims to lay the groundwork for those tried-and-true supplements that generally benefit most bodies. While there’s room for experimentation, these supplements should find a place in your routine during the majority of your training time.

Of course, if you’re dealing with conflicting medications, dietary restrictions, physiological disorders, or any other complexities related to supplements, don’t skip the crucial step of consulting your doctor.

Certain health issues may demand more targeted supplementation, but it’s essential to recognize that the magic often lies in addressing a deficiency. For instance, an iron deficiency corrected by a supplement might provide a significant energy boost. Think of it as the absence of iron draining your energy, and the supplement merely rectifying that imbalance.

Regardless of how you navigate your individual systems, one thing is clear: these aren’t shortcuts to your dreams. While supplements can lend support to your goals, achieving them still demands serious effort.

That being said, a scoop of whey can go a long way. Let’s dive in!

Performance-Boosting Supplements Worth Considering

Vitamin D

So, here’s the scoop on vitamins — generally, I’m not a big fan of popping individual supplements, but there’s a standout exception, and that’s Vitamin D. It’s like the MVP of the supplement game because so many folks are running low on it, making it a must-have in most people’s daily lineup! It’s gained some serious popularity in the industry, and for good reason — throwing it into your routine can lead to some pretty noticeable improvements.

Quick side note: When I say “really good results,” it’s a bit of a ballpark term, because you don’t usually feel the effects of a supplement right away. But give it a few months, and you might just find yourself feeling way better.

Now, Vitamin D is like a superhero for your bones and muscles, boosting immune function, and even giving depression a run for its money (hello, sunny summer vibes and winter blues). Plus, it’s got this cool anti-inflammatory effect. You can snag some D from food and good ol’ sunshine. That said, many athletes opt to throw in a Vitamin D supplement during the winter months.

Figuring out the right dose for Vitamin D is a bit tricky since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin – it hangs around in your body. There’s a smidge of risk for overdoing it. For the accuracy enthusiasts, you could get a blood panel to check your 25-hydroxyvitamin-D levels. Here in the UK, we flag a deficiency at anything below 20ng/ml, with the sweet spot around 50-70ng/ml. Toxicity is a rare beast, usually rearing its head after regularly popping 10,000iu a day for over six months.

My advice? Get that bloodwork done, kick off a supplement routine with 1,000-4,000iu a day, then recheck in 3-6 months. If your numbers hit the sweet spot, stick to your current dose. If not, maybe toss in an extra 1,000iu. And if regular bloodwork isn’t your jam, playing it safe with 1,000-2,500iu a day should keep you in the clear.

Fish Oil

Now, let’s dive into the fascinating world of supplements, shall we? I’m usually a bit skeptical when something claims to be a jack-of-all-trades, but fish oils? They seem to check all the boxes — hair, skin, joints, brain health, blood pressure, cardiovascular issues. You name it, fish oils are like a magic potion. And there’s good reason for that, circling back to what I mentioned earlier. Fixing a deficiency can work wonders.

By now, we’ve all heard the buzz about Omega 3s (n3). They’re a unique fatty acid chain that our Western diets are sorely lacking in. We load up on grains and starches but miss out on the oily fish, leaving us with a surplus of omega 6s & 9s but not enough omega 3s. Enter the omega 3 supplement, like good ol’ fish oil, to restore the balance and tip the scales in favor of a more anti-inflammation ratio of omega 3-6-9.

And here’s why fish oils boast such a broad spectrum of health benefits. Inflammation is the villain here, causing a range of issues — too much of it wreaks havoc on your body. So, an anti-inflammatory, like fish oil, steps in to tackle a myriad of problems.

The evidence supporting omega 3s, especially DHA + EPA, is piling up. There’s another player called ALA, but it converts into DHA + EPA so sluggishly that it’s smarter to go straight to the source.

For the overall health perks, we’re aiming for around 1,000mg of DHA + EPA combined, translating to roughly 3-4g of fish oils. Keep in mind, different brands have different concentrations, but as a rule of thumb, 1g of fish oil nets you about 300mg of DHA + EPA combined.

Now, a heads up – factor in your food intake when supplementing fish oil. Consistent doses of 3,000mg DHA + EPA might throw off your immune system or up the risk of blood clotting. It’s always wise to have a chat with your doctor, especially if you’re on blood thinners.


Alright, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty – we’re talking about a real game-changer here, a performance enhancer. Yep, you heard it right, a thoroughly researched one. Now, I can’t say I’ve ever had a lightbulb moment thinking, “Wow, I can really feel that creatine working.” It’s more like this silent partner that just contributes to an all-around better feeling.

Creatine is the heavyweight champ of supplements, backed by a ton of research, and practically a staple for athletes looking to up their game. Sure, you might squeeze out an extra rep here and there, which is pretty neat. But what’s even neater is the growing body of evidence showing creatine’s potential to fend off cognitive degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Here’s the deal — creatine fuels an energy system known as the creatine-phosphate system, tailor-made for those high-intensity/short intervals. Perfect for pumping iron and smashing out HIIT sessions, but not exactly a must for your easy-breezy, longer cardio sessions. It works its magic by saturating those muscle stores, cranking up your ATP (energy) production.

And because we’re on a mission to saturate those muscles, you can kick off with a loading dose of creatine — around 20 g per day for 5-7 days. After that, you settle into a maintenance dose of around 5 g per day. Is the loading dose a must? Not exactly, but it gets you to the finish line a tad faster. Rumor has it, it could deliver up to a 15% boost in performance.

Here’s a fun tidbit: Boosting creatine stores in the brain also amps up blood flow, which can come in handy for recovery post-head injuries, like concussions.


Alright, let’s not dive too deep into the protein rabbit hole — protein is protein, right? The source isn’t a make-or-break deal, as long as you’re mixing it up a bit. Now, when it comes to protein powders, they’re a game-changer in terms of convenience. I mean, where else can you snag 50 g of protein in under 30 seconds?

In my playbook, I’ve got two main players: whey and beef protein. Whey takes the crown because it’s the speedster of absorption, but I get it – it can be a bit hefty or not ideal for those who are lactose-intolerant. Beef protein, on the other hand, usually comes in more of a juice form, which adds a refreshing twist and is a win for those with milk digestion quirks.

Now, if you’re hitting those workouts hard, you want to up your protein game for gains — we’re talking between 1.6 g-2.4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. And let’s be real, protein shakes are like your cheat code to hit those numbers without breaking a sweat.

Sure, you can spice things up with funky mushrooms, pre-workout madness, or whatever else floats your boat. But this basic protein stack has been my go-to for ages, and I reckon it’s here to stay in my supplement routine.

Honorable Mention: CBD

While still in the newer stages of research and long-term testing, CBD has shown promising results as a recovery tool, sleep aid, and relaxation/stress-management supplement. Check out this blog for a solid personal account on CBD as a recovery tool: CBD Primer: The Next Supplement Frontier for Athletes (And Everyone)

This post originally appeared on TrainHeroic and has been adapted for TrainingPeaks.

Image Of A Runner Using The Trainingpeaks App To Train

Start Your Free Account

TrainingPeaks App

TrainingPeaks offers the world’s most powerful training app, allowing you to plan, track, and analyze your training all in one place. Connect your free trial account with your favorite apps and devices for real-time workout guidance and watch your fitness progress with powerful data tools.

Phil W
About Phil Wallace

Phil Wallace is a nutrition coach with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. He works with the general population and loves seeing how small nutritional interventions can stack up to massive changes in people’s lives.

Related Articles