Sports Nutrition Advice No 3. Do you need supplements to maximise your sports performance?

Can supplements help you to achieve more in your sports performance?

We finish our three part series with a look at the role of supplements and how they can support your personal best sports performance, thanks to advice from Jordan Morrison Senior Dietitian and Nutritionist at Healthfix.  

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

  • Need to get the 3 pillars correct first:
    • Sleeping well
    • Ensure your training program is effective for you
    • Eating well consistently: this means that you have adequate fats, proteins and carbohydrates every day and the timing of your nutrient intake is correct (around training sessions)
Supplements are then the ícing on the cake! What do you need to know? The Australian Institute of Sport’s framework is built around determining: 1. is it safe, 2. is it effective and 3. does it need to be used. Surprisingly, not many supplements actually that fall into this category however there are a few main ones that have evidence to support their use. They include:
    • Whey protein
    • Caffeine
    • Creatine monohydrate
    • Beetroot juice
Let’s take a closer look at these options.

Whey Protein

  • Whey protein is a fast-digesting and absorbing protein (more bang for your buck)
  • Examples where protein powder supplementation may be useful:
    • To enhance meals that you struggle to get sufficient protein in (often breakfast!) E.g. mix through yogurt, smoothie or overnight oats to ensure 20-40g protein per meal.
    • Convenience e.g. on the run after an exercise session and can’t get access to a good sit down meal
    • Those wanting to gain weight
    • It would not generally be recommended for those <18 years


  • Works to reduce our perception of fatigue and increase alertness
  • Examples:
    • Ironman athletes would use toward back end of competition to reduce fatigue after several hours of activity
    • Team and agility sports (netball, bball, AFL) having higher alertness and decision making and reduction in fatigue perception can be helpful here too.
    • Resistance or HITT pre-training nutrition
  • However, some people may have adverse reactions to higher doses. There are 3 types of DNA mutations individuals may have that will demonstrate different reactions (for 2/3, perform better and ⅓ actually perform worse! If you are anxious/nervous before an event or generally, or have IBS caffeine can increase these symptoms to negatively effect performance).
  • Recommended dose:
    • Start low and then trial from there
    • ~1mg/kgBW is a good place to start and up to ~3mg/kgBW e.g. 70kg person would have 70mg caffeine = ~3/4-1 shot of coffee (depends on coffee/cafe – this varies even in the same cafe!) If you want to use this for performance as a high level athlete, you might want to look into caffeine powder or strips that are specific.

Creatine Monohydrate

  • Creatine monohydrate is important for fast recovery for those who do explosive movements e.g. in gym doing set of 5 and doing another set of 5, it helps the body restore the energy for the 2nd set of 5. There is also some emerging evidence around it being beneficial for faster recovery from concussion e.g. rugby
  • Food sources are mainly animal and meat products, from in  the cell of the muscle
  • Vegan and vegetarian athletes are recommended to supplement
  • If you do supplement, there can be a little bit of wt gain initially (0.5-1kg) as it is stored with water (water weight!)
  • Recommended dose:
    • 3-5mg every day with a meal e.g. have a scoop with breakfast or dinner
    • Doesn’t have to be in a pre or post workout shake
    • Most important thing is being consistent every single day for it to be effective
    • No CM cycling research so far but they believe it’s safe to have every day for years at a time. You might find in off season you want to have a break from supplements

Beetroot Juice

  • Nitrates in beets help our cardiovascular system through improving the health of the arteries. It helps people exercise in long aerobic durations more efficiently e.g. >80 minutes.
  • You can use natural sources of dietary nitrates e.g. rocket, spinach, beetroot. If you are eating these foods daily/regularly, you don’t necessarily need to supplement.
A final note, that if you are looking for safe supplements look for a tick of approval from a 3rd party banned substance tested company e.g. HASTA & INFORMED SPORT , this will ensure the product has been fully independently tested. We hope you have enjoyed this information. Please free to get in touch with us at with any questions!