Do supplements work?

Do supplements work? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions

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Do supplements work? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions

We’re a nation of pill poppers, it turns out, as we spend an average of £123.60 on vitamins and supplements – and £66 on protein powders – a year according to natural medicine information hub 4Homeopathy. In fact, the nutritional supplement market is expected to reach £1.5 billion by 2023 – that’s a lot of money spent on things to make us feel better.

Understandably, we all want to be fit and healthy. But there’s a lot of confusion over what we should be taking and when we should be taking it.

Each week, Stylist Strong’s ambassadors answer some of the most asked questions from women who want to get into lifting. This time, they’re explaining whether we actually need supplements, and which ones work. 

Do supplements work?

Alice Miller, Stylist Strong ambassador

“We should try to get all of our nutrients from our food. Supplements are just that, supplementary. It’s important to beware that many supplements are a marketing gimmick from a billion dollar industry. Some things I would never buy, like pre-workout, because it’s just caffine and I’d rather have a coffee because that tastes good. 

“But saying that, there are some things that many of us struggle to get from our diet, so supplementing can help stop deficiencies. For example, I like to take a greens powder because it has vitamin D and vitamin K. It’s simply made from ground down vegetables, so I don’t think that can do any harm. B12 is also crucial for vegans.”

Tess Glynne-Jones, Stylist Strong ambassador

“‘Supplements’ is a very generic term. That could relate to anything from cod liver oil to protein to casein. Some supplements really do work, for example as we hardly get any sun in England it’s pretty recommended to take a Vitamin D. But as with everything it depends on the quality of what you’re using.”

What supplements should you take for weight training?

Alice Miller, Stylist Strong ambassador

“I do like to have a protein powder on the days I haven’t had enough, as I train hard and protein aids with muscle repair. I’ll usually have it at the end of the day, as part of my dessert, to get in an additional 20 to 25 grams of protein.”

Emma Obayuvana, Stylist Strong ambassador

“If you’re trying to gain muscle, size or you’re looking for surplus calories that you cannot fulfill with your regular nutrition, then protein shakes definitely have their place. You might also want a protein supplement if your diet doesn’t have enough protein in it because you’re vegan or vegetarian and can’t hit your targets with tofu and legumes. Otherwise I don’t think they’re necessary.

“As someone who trains, I take zinc which is great for boosting your immune system, especially if you’re in contact with a lot of people and so you don’t pick up all the lurgies passed around on the gym floor. Magnesium also helps in muscle recovery, so I take that.”

Tess Glynne-Jones, Stylist Strong ambassador

In terms of improving performance and muscle mass, whey protein is proven to work. Again, it kind of depends on the quality that you’re having, as it can cause bloating and irritation for some people. But it’s just a very fast acting protein that’s quite good thing to have after you train. Vegan protein is still a way of getting in protein but it’s not quite as fast acting. It’s a good alternative though.”

How can you tell if a supplement is good?

Tess Glynne-Jones, Stylist Strong ambassador

“There is a recommended daily intake for vitamins and minerals, so it’s worth checking if you’re meeting those targets and adjusting accordingly. As for protein, it will work best if you hit 20g of the macronutrient at a time, so make sure that your scoop of powder or meals are hitting that mark. You can check out Informed Sport for its register of tested sports supplements to make sure that what you’re buying works.”

Alice Miller, Stylist Strong ambassador

“The number one rule that I share with all of my clients is to never take advice from anyone who’s not a certified nutritionist or dietitian. And especially not from people on Instagram who have no credentials. Recommendations are useful, but remember that it’s up to you to check the legitimacy of products before you put them into your body and that just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you.”

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

Images: Unsplash

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).