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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Peter Bevan

Best gym supplements: What to take to boost your workout, according to experts

While regular exercise and a balanced diet should be enough to make progress at the gym, sometimes it can feel like you’re just not getting anywhere.

This may be because it’s hard to hit your daily targets of nutrients that are vital for muscle growth and improved performance – which is where supplements come in.

“To see the most effective marginal gains from supplements, they should be incorporated into an already nutrient-rich diet,” says Rachel Butcher, Head of Nutrition at Third Space London. “Assuming your basic diet is on point, though, supplements may have a place when used appropriately and you are informed on what they can do and what their limitations are. When thinking about incorporating a supplement into your regime, consider why you want to include it and therefore whether you should.”

What supplements should I consider for the gym?

There’s a seemingly endless selection of supplements on the market. You only need to scroll on TikTok and you’ll see fitness influencers promoting different hacks and products that are supposedly great for the gym, so it can be hard to know what’s actually best – so we’re here to break it down.

Since protein is key to repairing muscles, it’s the most common supplement for those looking to build – and it’s proven to work: “There is robust evidence which shows that consuming protein pre- and/or post-workout induces a significant rise in muscle protein synthesis,” says a 2018 report.

“I’d recommend a whey protein isolate for the clarity in the product - it’s clean and easily digestible into the body,” says personal trainer and founder of Achievable Academy, Alex Beattie. “Also creatine monohydrate and omega 3 would be my go-to's. If you’re doing cardio like running, I’d look at electrolytes, too, to aid hydration.” 

For Butcher, the best supplements are essential nutrients which are difficult to come by through diet alone: “Examples of this would be creatine and vitamin D – in the absence of sufficient daily sunlight – and beta-alanine. All are present in small doses in certain meat, fish and dairy products, but not enough to obtain the amounts needed to support health or performance.” 

“When you either don't like, or prefer not to, include certain food like key omega 3s, EPA & DHA, it can be a good idea to incorporate these nutrients in supplement form,” says Butcher.

The good news? It’s never been easier to up your intake. With a vast selection on the market that spans powders, gummies, bars and tablets, there’s a world of gym-friendly supplements which deliver results.

How often should I take supplements? 

Consistency is key: “If you’re going to use supplements, they need to be used regularly, but not to replace food,” says Beattie.  

Butcher’s top tip? “Habit stack your routines. The best supplement routine is one you can stick to consistently, so timing your supplement taking to an already formed habit, like brushing your teeth, maximises your chances of keeping up your habit regularly.” 

Keep scrolling for our guide to the best supplements to consume alongside a healthy diet.

Bulk Pure Whey Isolate 500g

Bulk is one of the leaders in supplementation in the U.K. With athlete ambassadors such as Anthony Joshua on its roster, you know its products are going to work.

For maximum gains, this one’s for you. Firstly, the mammoth 24g of protein in each serving is not only staggering, but it comes from grass-fed cows too, which means it’s 100 per cent free from hormone and genetic modifications - now that is clean. It also mixes well, but, for us, we preferred it with less water for a consistency that’s just right.

Buy now £15.49, Bulk

MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate

Isolate protein powders are by far the best when choosing whey, as it’s simply a refined form. Naturally, it only suits those who aren’t dairy-intolerant or vegan as it’s derived from milk, but the protein content is next level.

MyProtein’s Impact Whey Isolate comes in with a massive 90 per cent protein content, with almost zero carbs or fats, which means it’s an all-around brilliant protein supplement. At the lower range price point, it’s good for those just starting out, and it mixes well so it’s nice to drink on its own, too.

Buy now £12.21, MyProtein

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein Powder Strawberry

While whey protein is thought to be better than casein when it comes to muscle growth, some people prefer casein for its slower digestion process. Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Casein Powder comes in a delicious strawberry flavour and is best for slow-digesting protein support between meals and before bed.

Sometimes slower is better - especially when it comes to the rate of protein digestion. While rapid protein absorption is ideal right before or after exercise, delayed release is probably more beneficial throughout the remainder of the day and especially last thing at night.

Buy now £40.21, Amazon

PhD Smart Protein Plant Chocolate Cookie

Don’t listen to anyone who says vegans can’t build muscle. In fact, some of the best protein powders are made from vegan protein powder. They’re also a great option for those who may struggle to digest whey protein but still want to enjoy protein powder’s muscle-building qualities.

PhD’s Smart Protein Plant in Chocolate Cookie is one of the best vegan protein powders around and packs 20g plant protein per scoop. It’s also exceptionally low in sugar: containing less than one gram per 25g serving. Perfect for adding muscle but not fat.

Buy now £14.00, Amazon

Myvitamins Protein Gummies

Convenience is key when it comes to protein. There’s not always time to make a shake - especially if you prefer to use milk which isn’t available unless you have a fridge to hand. If you keep these gummies in your gym bag, you can easily chew on the go instead. There are only 10 grams of protein in each gummy, so you can enjoy a dose of the peachy goodness up to eight times a day.

Buy now £15.40, LOOKFANTASTIC

Kinetica Lean Protein Powder

For best results, you’ll probably want to separate your muscle growth (bulking) and weight loss (shredding) into separate stages. But, if you’re hoping to build muscle while dropping fat at the same time, a low-calorie protein powder will come in handy. Kinetica’s Lean Protein Powder offers 16g of protein per 25g scoop and contains green tea extract for added wellness. Each scoop is also only 97 calories, making it lower than most whey proteins around.

Buy now £40.49, Amazon

Form Nutrition - Superblend Protein Chocolate Salted Caramel

Containing pea, brown rice, hemp and whole algae protein, we couldn’t believe we were drinking something that was actually good for us. We tested the Chocolate Salted Caramel with unsweetened almond milk as well as water and the results were unanimous: Yum. This multi-plant-based formula is so truly delicious we forgot it was actually good for us too.

Ideal as a post-workout recovery drink as well as a mid-afternoon workday boost, we found it helped maintain energy post-workout (and pre-office lunch) while providing that perfect amount of fullness.

Full of amino acids this excellent blend also contains maca and spirulina which have been shown to help manage stress and fatigue. Form also offers a discount on monthly subscription packages if you’re committed to a protein regime. The brand also makes one of the best blender bottles we tried.

Buy now £26.00, Form Nutrition

Optimum Nutrition Micronised Creatine Powder

Optimum Nutrition’s Micronised Creatine Powder is one of the finest options around - both physically and metaphorically. Designed to blend easily without any unnecessary texture or gritty taste, this pure creatine is a great choice just after finishing a CrossFit class or a long workout session.

Optimum Nutrition is one of the most popular brands in the world of creatine, so you know you’re in safe hands when buying this one. One pack also contains 186 servings, so you won’t need to stock up again for a while, either.

Buy now £27.93, Amazon

Myprotein Creatine Monohydrate Powder

MyProtein's budget-friendly supplements extend past just protein powders and snacks. The brand's Creatine Monohydrate Powder is a popular, clean product that offers all of the benefits of creatine but none of the filler ingredients that you may find in cheaper options.

This creatine comes in two flavoured options as well as its standard unflavoured offering. Choose between Tropical V2 or Berry Burst if you're looking to step up your weight training with a twist.

Buy now, Myprotein

MyVitamins Creatine Gummies

When you're feeling tired and unmotivated, going to the gym feels like a real chore. Luckily, with MyVitamins' gummies in your sports bag, you can easily combat fatigue with the unique blend of creatine, caffeine and vitamin B6 - leaving you to make the most of your workout.

Buy now £14.29, MyVitamins

PE Nutrition Performance Creapure Creatine

PE Nutrition's Performance Creapure comes unflavoured, so you're free to add it to your favourite drinks, protein shakes or even your favourite bakes (protein pancakes or banana muffins, anyone?) without having to experience a lingering aftertaste that some may feature.

With 5g of creatine per serving, this vegetarian-quality-assured creatine is a great budget-friendly option for implementing into your nutrition routine.

Buy now £31.00, Holland & Barrett

Bulk Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate Tablets

Creatine tablets are a great option if you're on the move or don't want to struggle with weighing out particular portion sizes each time you take them - and Bulk's are some of the best around.

These tablets feature a beginner-friendly dose of 1000mg of creatine with 99.99 per cent purity, helping you to increase physical performance next time you're hitting the gym. If you don't like the taste of powder-based supplements or just want your health to be as easy to maintain as possible, look to Bulk.

Buy now £9.99, Bulk

JSHealth Vegan Vitamin D Formula

JSHealth was founded by clinical nutritionist and health author Jessica Sepel and offers well-being support through the wonderful world of vitamins. The brand’s Vegan Vitamin D Formula is packed full of goodness. Take one capsule a day for your much-needed hit of the sunshine vitamin, which maintains and supports bone health. Vitamin D3 also promotes muscle health, immune system health and healthy teeth.

Buy now £19.99, JSHealth

Nourished 3D Printed Vitamins

Want to avoid the faff of having to take multiple vitamins for every aspect of your health? Opt for Nourished. The 3D-printed vitamins are vegan-friendly and designed by you, to your specifications, so you can be sure to get all the nutrients you need.

Whether you’re looking to have more energy, be more focused or get better heart health, build your own custom seven-ingredient stack from 28 nourishments (including ashwagandha, lycopene and vita-algae D3) or take Nourished’s quiz to determine exactly the right combination to help optimise your lifestyle.

You can sign up for just a one-off box of vitamins or they offer a fab subscription service where you can get the box sent directly to your door, so you’ll never need to worry about running out.

As far as vitamins go, they are also the tastiest ones on the market by a long shot.

Buy now £39.99, Get Nourished

Nature’s Way Alive! Vitamin D3 Gummies

If you find it a struggle to get your children to eat anything healthy, let alone vitamins, these Alive! Vitamin D Gummies will be your new best friend.

The bright purple easy-to-chew tablet with a berry citrus flavour means there’s no nasty “medicinal” taste and so makes ensuring children are getting all the goodness they need without a fuss.

Not only that, but these vitamins are stuffed full of 26 fruits and veggies, including cherry and cauliflower, and they are also vegetarian-friendly – a double win!

For adults, Nature’s Way also offers high-strength vitamin D capsules, which are available in various strengths and flavours.

Buy now £15.99, Holland & Barrett

Cytoplan Vitamin D3 & K2

Cytoplan offers fantastic wholefood, organic and vegan supplements that are both ethically and sustainably sourced. It is worth considering that they are charity-owned, meaning ethical decisions over profit are at the heart of the company, and every product bought contributes to social change, all of which garners them serious plus points.

The brand’s vegan vitamin D3 pills also contain K2, as the vitamins work synergistically so taking both helps to ensure optimum biological activity. Or, if tablets aren’t for you, they also do vegan vitamin D3 drops, as well as supplements tailored to juniors.

With Cytoplan, feeling good and doing good has never been so simple.

Buy now £17.00, Cytoplan

Wild Nutrition Food Grown Pure Strength Omega 3

Wild Nutrition’s omega-3 supplement is formulated with sustainably sourced concentrated Wild Alaska Pollock oil. Free from added artificial colours, sugars, flavourings and preservatives, Wild Nutrition has gone for a 2:1 ratio of EPA and DHA.

Buy now £35.00, Wild Nutrition

Vitabiotics Ultra Omega-3 Fish Oils Capsules

The most value-for-money omega-3 supplement on the market, Vitabiotics offers a budget-friendly supplement for those looking to enter into the world of fish oil without breaking the bank. With fish oil sources from sustainable fisheries, a serving of two capsules contains 355mg of EPA and 235mg of DHA.

Buy now £7.00, Amazon

Feel Omega-3

Though Feel’s algae-derived omega-3 supplements contain more EPA (150mg) than alternatives like Brain Feed, they contain slightly less DHA (300mg). However, this makes Feel’s supplement a brilliant beginner’s choice for those looking to dip their toes in the waters of omega-3 supplementation.

Buy now £23.95, Feel

Brain Feed Omega 3 plant-based DHA 500mg

The immediate appeal of Brain Feed’s plant-based omega-3 supplements is that you only have to take one a day. Hurrah! Derived from non-GMO algae which has been sustainably cultivated using fermentation methods, this supplement is free from heavy metals, gelatin, carrageenan and PCBs. Each capsule contains 500mg of DHA and 30mg of EPA.

Buy now £19.99, Brain Feed

MyProtein Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

MyProtein recommends adding two scoops (5g) of its Essential BCAA powder to 250-350ml of water or juice in a shake before, during or after exercise for optimum results.

Whether you’re looking to gain muscle, tone up, or lose weight, this is a convenient way to power up your training session and help build and repair new muscle in order to reach your fitness goals.

The 2:1:1 ratio blend of leucine, isoleucine and valine is available in more than 15 flavours, including grape, cola, berry burst and melon that goes down a treat.

Buy now £5.00, MyProtein

JOLT The Ultimate Age Blocker

While JOLT is intended as a daily anti-ageing supplement, it also helps improve lean muscle mass and increase ‘free testosterone’ - a hormone that aids in muscle growth.

Buy now £69.99, JOLT

Innermost The Energy Booster

Add Innermost’s sweet pineapple-flavoured powder to your shake pre-workout to amp up your fitness routine.

Formulated by nutritionists, the supplement is created using 16 ingredients to increase energy levels, stamina and encourage muscle development. This may be the add-on that you are looking for to give you that added push to perform better during high-intensity workouts. Blended with the most important amino acids – BCAAs – the powder will aid muscle growth and repair too.

Buy now £29.95, Innermost

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