I’ve received many questions from people about the best supplements that athletes should take to help train harder and recovery faster. The perfect answer would be to have whole foods as they come from natural sources instead of from a powdered bottle. However, due to how fast paced Singapore is, there’s no doubt that we have to take some supplements to help us get to our goals as it is just impossible to prepare healthy meals every single day of the week.
I would like to say that I’ve taken many many many supplements in my whole entire swimming career, and after changing brands after brands and spending loads of money, these are the supplements which I feel has made a difference in my training progress. So if you are thinking on taking supplements, these are a few that I’d strongly recommend.
Just to give you an idea, I am an endurance athlete (200m and above), my training regime is mostly based on cardio. My goals are to stay as lean as possible, and to not have any bulk which may potentially weigh me down in the water, so don’t expect to see “Creatine” in my list of recommended supplements.
Supplements are really expensive, so I hope that this blog post will give you a clearer idea the essential supplements to take and also potentially save cost on expensive supplements which are unnecessary.
First off, consistency is key when it comes to training so I feel that targeting the fundamental aspect of your body is key. And to have consistency, preventing yourself from falling sick is the most important thing when it comes to training.
You can have the best supplement stack, but if you can’t stay healthy, any supplement stack would be deemed useless.
We are constantly exposed to bacteria everyday, which increases the risk of us falling sick. So if we include Probiotics in our diet, we can balance out the good and bad bacteria in our body which can potentially prevent us from falling sick.
I drink one Yakult everyday as it is a great source of Probiotics, plus the taste is awesome as well. However, if you’re always on the go, I would recommend you investing in Probiotics pills, which you can bring it along with you.
So remember, prevention is key, so time to start on Probiotics!
2) Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also another good supplement which you can take to prevent yourself from falling sick. As you can tell by now, I have a sweet tooth, so I prefer my supplements to be sweet as well.
I usually take my vitamin C at night, after a 250g of steak, as Vitamin C increases the absorption of Iron, and Iron is good for me as an endurance athlete because it potentially increases the red blood cell count in my body, therefore having better oxygen transportation when I’m in the pool.
3) Protein + Carbohydrate source
People always ask, what is the best protein to take?
To me, it’s not about how well the protein absorbs in your body. I know there’s Whey protein isolate, Whey protein concentrate, Micellar Casein, Milk protein, and many many more forms. However, to me, the most important thing is TIMING and HAVING A CARBOHYDRATE SOURCE to go along with the protein
Always remember that protein absorbs better when taken alongside carbohydrates. So instead of finding out on which is the “quickest” absorbing protein, aim for a product which has both Carbohydrate and Protein in it.
With regards to timing, I would recommend drinking your Carb+Protein shake within 30 minutes after training as that is the best window for our body to absorb the nutrients.
I’ve tried cycling on and off protein shakes and to be honest, my muscles are less sore when I started to take protein shakes right after my training, so I would highly recommend it.
For me I take 1/2 a scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s PRO Gainer, it taste really good and I like it. Half a scoop of that has a good 40+ grams of Carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein, which is what my body needs after a hard session.
You might be wondering, why take a mass gainer when I want to be lean? Honestly speaking, even though this product is marketed as a mass gainer, it is essentially just a blend of good Carbs and Protein, which is what I need post training. I have not gained any weight ever since taking this product so I think that as long as you have a good training program in place, you won’t go wrong with this product.
Lastly, hydration is key when it comes to training. (Yes! Swimmers sweat too!)
For me I usually take Gatorade or BSN’s Amino X and it has helped me with the hydration aspect of training. I rarely get any cramps during training so I guess these products are keeping me well hydrated during training.
Waking up at 4:45am every morning, it’s pretty impossible to stay awake if I were to not have a coffee dose before training. Even the 20 minute drive to the stadium is quite a challenge. I find that a cup of coffee helps with mental clarity and alertness during my training sessions.
For me, I have a cup of coffee right before my morning and afternoon sessions, and I feel that it has helped me.
However, if you are able to hype yourself up before your workouts, you can skip caffeine.
PROBIOTICS + VITAMIN C + PROTEIN/CARB + HYDRATION + CAFFEINE + TRAINING =
So there you have it! If this is your desired body shape, then these supplements are essential and sufficient for you to achieve your goals. I know this current supplement stack is really basic but trust me, that’s all you need.
Also, an important factor to note is that whole foods are always better than taking supplements. However if you have a really tight schedule like me and can’t have the luxury of whole foods (e.g. having a meal prepared for you within 30minutes after your workout) then supplements will help you with your recovery.
Always remember not to be too reliant on supplements, because nothing beats having a proper training goal and training schedule.
5) Things to AVOID
There’s a lot of marketing hype about supplements nowadays but a thing which you should take note of is that if there aren’t sufficient scientific studies done to a specific product, it is best to avoid it as you may not know the potential side effects the products may have. I strongly am against “Natural testosterone boosters” as there hasn’t been sufficient studies done on it.
I strongly recommend going to Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) Website before investing in supplements. Here’s the list of grade A supplements (click on this link), whereby extensive research has been done and these supplements are supported for use.
Overall, this is my personal opinion towards supplements. Supplements are really dependent on your goals and lifestyle so choose the supplements which suit your lifestyle and training goals. Some may recommend Creatine for bulking (it is a grade A supplement on AIS) but I can’t answer that because I haven’t tried it myself. It would be great if you consult your nutritionist (if you have one) before trying on these supplements, but I know that not everyone has the luxury of having their own nutritionist and hence this blog post!
I hope this blog post gives you a clearer idea on the supplement stack which I’m on! This is the current supplement stack which I stick to after trying out many different brands of products for years.
Always remember, prevention is key, so staying healthy is the most important aspect when finding your supplement stack. And of course, stop spending money on unnecessary products unless there has been research done for those products.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or write to me and I’d be happy to answer them!
EDIT: As feedbacked by Nutritionist Belinda, it is important that athletes are aware that there may be doping substances in sports supplements. It is best to consult a sports nutritionist/dietitian before purchasing supplements which you are unsure of.
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