Supplementation is a commonly debated topic but not everyone needs to be supplemented. A supplement is something added to something else in order to complete or enhance it. In the case of a vitamin or mineral supplement, that would be adding micronutrients to the body. Another form of supplement would be work enhancing supplements, such as creatine. This section will briefly discuss both.

Who requires micronutrient supplementation?

Individuals determined to be considered at risk for increased needs of vitamins and minerals are:

  • Low energy, weight loss diet
  • Low energy in the elderly
  • Chronic disease prevention
  • Special needs
  • Extreme activity demands
  • Enhance recovery from exercise
  • Maintain normal immune function
  • Sport training
  • Before or after surgery
  • Therapeutic nutrition for specific health problems
  • Post bariatric surgery
  • Drug-induced inc. in nutrient needs (e.g. ibuprofen inc Folate)

There is a growing trend of individuals who are all taking multivitamins, and there is some just justification to this increase because often the diet alone cannot provide all the nutrients for certain reasons. Our farming methods are reducing the nutrients available in the soil and therefore into our crops, so we are farming some nutrient-deficient foods. Buying organically can help with this.

Other reasons for why a supplement may be necessary are:

Why isn’t our diet enough?

• When individuals avoid specific food groups they may become deficient in certain nutrients
• When people are only eating only one major meal per day
• If individuals follow irregular eating patterns
• If an individual eats too much/too little protein/carbohydrates
• Picky or fussy eating, particularly in children
• Certain financial limitations on some individual’s diets may cause them to eat a diet that is less varied in nutrients and they may become deficient.

How to we measure the supplementation requirements?

There is a lot of supplementation jargon used to explain the recommended intake of a certain micronutrient. Below is a selection of the main ones commonly used:

DRV is a general term to cover:

– Estimated Average Requirement (EAR)

Av amount of energy or a nutrient needed by a group of people

– Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI)

Amount of nutrient that is enough to meet the dietary needs of 97% of a group of people

– Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI)

Amount of nutrient that is enough for a small number of people with the smallest needs

– Safe Intake

The intake of a supplement that is determined to be at the maximum upper range

The micronutrients at the highest risk for over supplementation are as follows:

• Vitamin A
• Vitamin D
• Iron
• Zinc


Antioxidants are substances that protect cells against the effects of free radicals (which have been shown to cause cancer). Free radicals are produced when body breaks down food or from the environment that result in the damage of cells.

Anti-oxidant substances include:

• Beta-carotene
• Lutein
• Lycopene
• Selenium
• Vitamins A, C, E


Ergogenic aids can be broadly defined as a technique or substance that is used for the purpose of enhancing performance. They have been classified as nutritional, pharmacologic, physiologic, or psychologic and range from use of accepted techniques such as carbohydrate loading to illegal and unsafe approaches such as anabolic-androgenic steroid use. The efficacy of a large number of these techniques is controversial, whereas the harmful side effects are clear.

Carbo-loading has already been discussed previously under “Carbohydrates”. This section will now focus on two very popular and widely used ergogenic aids, namely creatine and caffeine.


Bodybuilding dietary supplements

Creatine is a natural occurring compound that science has shown to provide a statistically significant sports-enhancing effect.

Creatine is a natural compound found in the body as phosphocreatine and is a form of energy that is used during the first 5 – 20 seconds of a high intensity exercise, such as sprint runs. After about 20 seconds, an athlete will then need to slow down as a different form of energy is then tapped into. As muscle creatine stores depleted the synthesis of ATP is prevented and therefore energy supplied to the muscles occurs at insufficient rate. If an athlete could increase their naturally occurring phosphocreatine, they could maintain high intensities for longer which is where supplementation of creatine could be of benefit. Strength athletes are also known to taken creatine as they find that they can lift heavier weights and do more repetitions. Other athletes it can be of benefit to would be football and tennis as well as interval sessions of running, cycling and swimming.

It stands to reason that long distance runners will not benefit from supplementation as they use a different energy system and an increased muscle bulk would slow them down.

The recommended dose of creatine is 2-5g with a lot of water, as there is a chance of causing dehydration when taken in these large amounts. Initially there will be a bit of water retention with the dosages. Recommendations for the supplementation of creatine are for short term usage and not for long term supplementation and it is contraindicated in anyone suffering from renal impairment or a family history of kidney disease. Supplementation for longer than 5 years is not recommended. It is also not advised to be used in children due to its interference with growth and it should never replace hard work at the gym or on the field and a healthy balanced diet.



Caffeine is considered as an ergogenic aid, due to its work enhancing performance in people who take it at specific times in relation to their training to provide expected outcomes. The average or adequate intake is recommended to be between 200 – 300mg with harmful levels reaching 500 – 600mg. See the table below for common beverages and their caffeine content.

Instant Coffee27-173 mg (240ml)
Filter Coffee95-200 mg (240ml)
Black Tea / Green Tea14-61 mg (240ml)24-40 mg (240ml)
Coke / Diet Coke34 mg  (354ml)38-47 mg (355ml)
Red Bull80 mg (250ml)
Monster160 mg (473ml)
Rock Star250mg (354ml)

Caffeine’s role as an ergogenic aid is that is performs the following results:

1. Increased energy consumption and raised metabolic rate: it has been shown to stimulate hormones that cause the body to burn fat as an energy source. It can also increase your RMM by between 5 – 10%.
2. Brain function enhancement: 24 hours after one cup of coffee has been shown that memory, mental focus and clarity recalling recent information can be improved.
3. Lowered pain levels: post caffeine intake the pain threshold for an individual has been shown to be increased.
4. Endurance: with glycogen being the stored form of energy, it is the first energy used in exercise. Caffeine has been shown to slow the rate at which glycogen stores have been depleted, thus allowing an individual to exercise harder for longer.

It is just important that for both creatine and caffeine that an individual is drinking a lot of water. And in the case of caffeine, that consumption is ideally at least six hours before bed time.

Before advising any of your clients to go onto any supplements, it is advisable that you go through this list of questions first, to assure yourself and your client that they are making the wisest and best decision:

Sports pharmacology, vertical shot, close-up

– Is it safe? Are there any side effects?
– Is it legal?
– Does it work? Is there scientific backing?
– Do I know how to use it correctly?
– Can I afford it?
– Am I doing everything else that is possible to optimise my performance?