Saturday, June 22Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Sports Supplements: The Good, The Mediocre and The Completely Useless

Every January, floods of people pile into gyms to work out for both the first and last time that year. If you’re one of the few people who made it through January and are still working out, you might be looking at getting some supplements to help you on your fitness journey. The problem is, however, that the quality of these supplements is incredibly varied, with some working well and others working to eat away at your student loan. The list below should help guide you through the jungle of supplements, based on the experience of myself and friends, who have spent a lot of money on these plastic tubs of sports powder!

The Good

Creatine monohydrate is the best supplement you can buy. It’s cheap, well researched, and very effective at improving strength, stamina, recovery, and even sex drive for some people! Creatine doesn’t work for everyone though; some people see small but noticeable results, while others don’t see or feel a difference. So, if you don’t see results at all, you should stop taking it and research other options. The best way to find out is to try it with a small tub, which can cost as little as £8. It’s the first supplement you should buy if you’re looking to take fitness more seriously.

Pre-workout may be a bit controversial, but it’s safe and it definitely works. It contains stimulants such as caffeine as well as ingredients that aid recovery and general performance such as creatine and taurine. It’s best to save it for hard workouts since you can build a tolerance to the ingredients, and you should always take the recommended amount. Both myself and friends have seen a noticeable boost in strength when using it.

The Mediocre

Protein powder comes in many forms, but the most common is ‘lean’ powder which has a 30 gram serving size and roughly 20 grams of protein per scoop. It is important to understand that protein powder has no magical properties – it is simply an alternative to eating meat or another protein-rich food for one meal. However, if your schedule is busy and you don’t always have time to cook, it can be very useful. It isn’t something you should rely on every day, and if your goal is to bulk, you may want to eat another snack with it, but for the days when you’d otherwise eat nothing, it’s definitely worth having.

Mass gainer is similar to ‘lean’ protein powder but contains lots of carbs, and is taken in bigger servings. It’s designed to replace a meal for people looking to ‘bulk up’ and although it undeniably works, it’s unbelievably expensive. At £3 per scoop, this product is the main supplement that burns through the loans and salaries of people who use it regularly. If you really struggle to eat enough, ‘mass gainer’ may be useful on busy days, but if you can, I’d advise you to steer clear of it and save your money.

The Completely Useless

BCAAs are produced by every supplement company and are completely useless. They are simply an element of protein, so unless you don’t eat enough protein you already have plenty of them. It doesn’t matter what your goals are and how you exercise, they won’t help you at all.

Fat Burners are the definition of snake oil. They are also produced by many different brands with endorsements by all your favourite Instagram fitness influencers. However, there is no research at all behind 90 percent of the ingredients in them and many of the chemicals are known to be ineffective. After decades of research, the only effective fat burning chemicals that have been discovered work by raising your metabolism drastically, which is both extremely dangerous and is the reason why they are illegal in most countries. Unfortunately, there’s just no shortcut to losing weight.