What’s supp with that?

As most of you know, I come from a triathlon/multisport background (this bodybuilding thing is all very new to me!) I also write for triathlon magazines (with my journalism hat on). Given that triathlon is a “kit-heavy” sport, with no end of gadgets and gizmos to coo over and spend out on, you might think I was immune to overspending on sports stuff, after all these years.


Not really.

We have a situation here…

I’m 11 weeks out (?!*@!) from my first figure/bodybuilding show and my supplement cupboard has become —> a supplement hamper has become —> a supplement….area. Perhaps it’s because there’s not a great deal else to buy for bodybuilding, other than food (and I do enjoy that!) and – eventually – what I’ll wear on stage (I haven’t got that far yet). But I’ve gone a bit spendy on the ol’ supps. Would you like a tour?

(Disclaimer: some of these are free samples picked up at the IFBB Grand Prix, some are freebies (thank you Sci-MX, myprotein) and many are BOGOFs. I do shop around, honest! Even so, it’s a bit embarrassing….)

1) Protein powders

Perhaps the most cliched bodybuilding food, but far from just hype. Training like I am, and trying to build/retain the amount of muscle I am, I need a lot of protein – far more than most people. And it’s hard to get it all in through real foods. (I do eat real foods! In fact the amount of real foods I eat is the reason the fridge door currently won’t quite shut properly…and there’s a cool bag full of veg in the kitchen).

So, protein powders are a handy way (whey? hahahahaaaa. erm…) to get extra protein in. Plus, they taste yum! They’ve come a long way from the days when they were chalky and tasteless. I add them to oatmeal, make smoothies/shakes with them, bake with them and make fake icecream with them (so so good).

Why so many? Last week, this would have been a sorry photo – I was down to just two tubs (the horror!) But then I saw a BOGOF on chocolate orange flavour, and then a sports-supplement client of mine offered me a contradeal. So what you’re seeing here is an unusually large amount of different protein powders, I promise! There are so many tasty flavours out there that I wanted to try lots!

I can’t be bothered to list everything in the pics but if you spot a label you’re interested in knowing more about, please leave a comment and I will elaborate.

One of these by the way is casein, rather than whey. Casein protein is absorbed much more slowly than whey, so it’s great to have before bed. Which is exactly what I do: make a pudding out of it. Yum! (again) You can also get vegan and vegetarian sources of protein powders (hemp, pea, etc).

2) BCAAs

Branch chain amino acids. I’m sure my biochemist husband would be able to explain our need for BCAAs far better than I can, but he’s currently doing a MTB race with this chap, so you’ll have to make do with me.

Proteins, as we know, are made up of amino acids. BCAAs are naturally occurring in the body and represent over 30% of our muscle mass. We really need them to support muscle growth, never more so than when we’re training really hard and dieting down at the same time – as I have slowly started to do. So I take BCAAs to prevent losing my hard-earned muscles, to speed up recovery between training sessions and to stop me feeling knackered.

What you see here is BCAAs in capsule form from Sci-Mx and also powder form, for mixing into a drink, from Scivation (Xtend). One of my bloggy pals told me Xtend had forever ruined plain water for her…and I fear I am going down the same sorry route. However, after my contest prep is over I’ll just have to live with it, for the sake of my wallet! For now, though….*sip* 🙂

3) Pre-workout booster thingies

Stuff you mix into water to take before/during training to give you a bit of a boost. I’ve reviewed the Sci-MX one you see there already – here. There are lots of preworkout supplements out there, most with caffeine, guarana, taurine etc as stimulants, and then with amino acids to help recovery and buffer lactic acid, etc.

I’ve tried a few (I got lots of samples at the IFBB Grand Prix) and some are most definitely stronger than others – whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you! I do get on with the Sci-MX one, hence why I’ve stuck with it. I don’t use these products before every training session, partly because I don’t want to get into the habit, partly because the more I use them the more I’ll get used to them and partly because I don’t always want the effect. (Also partly so they’ll last longer!) However, on days when I’m really dragging, or I have a very tough session to do, they are great.

4) L-glutamine

L-glut is an amino acid found in some of the foods we eat but, because the body needs it so much – particularly when training hard and trying to recover quickly – I supplement my diet with it. Amongst its jobs are preventing muscle breakdown (catabolism) and helping immune function. It’s just a powder (this one’s flavourless) which I take with water or mix into a shake or whatever really.

5) Creatine

Perhaps the most researched supplement out there, creatine is another substance which is naturally-occurring in the body but which needs topping up when you’re training really hard with weights. Our bodies make and use creatine to supply energy to our muscles and, ultimately, to top up muscle’s most valued energy source (ATP). It can boost the rate at which you grow lean mass and can help you lift more weight and train harder. Definitely one to take during bodybuilding training.

6) 3/6/9 oil

Fat doesn’t make you fat (but you knew that….promise?) On the contrary. Which is why I pour a good 20ml of Udo’s Choice oil over my food every single day. Everyone needs the correct amount of essential fatty acids (hence the name ‘essential’…) and I want to make sure I’m getting the right amount, even as start cutting my diet back approaching my show. I’d rather cut carbohydrates by a little than lose out on fats – they’re more important to the body (IMO). EFAs have also been reported to help recovery between training sessions and I’m down with that. (I also use coconut oil – for cooking, since you can’t heat Udo’s oil.)

7) Foodie bits

I love cooking (and eating!) and experimenting in the kitchen to see how I can make recipes (particularly baked goods) “bodybuilder friendly”. My coach Kat Millar has some of the recipes we’ve ‘refined’ together on her blog here. Anyway, it’s handy to be able to add flavour and sweetness without sugar. Hence the sugar-free syrups (great in baking, coffee, oats, smoothies) and flavour drops (there are various brands out there).

I’ve reviewed a few of these already – you can do a search by product name or by ‘review’ – but if there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just tell me in the comments.

And, with that, I’m going to go and make myself a really complicated protein shake with 7,345 ingredients in. 😉 Not really. I’m going to have an iced coffee and think about taking the dog for a walk once it’s a bit cooler.

Do you take supplements or sports nutrition? What, when, why, where and how? What’s your fave?

Aaaaand…can anyone’s supplements cupboard/box/space rival mine? 😉

What’s supp with that? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


25 Responses to What’s supp with that?

  1. Juliet says:

    LOL! I MADE IT IN YOUR BLOG POST! OKAY well I am assuming it’s me. Because XTend has ruined water for me. Ugh. Do you like the lemonade? I only bought it once and vaguely remember it tasting something akin to Pine-Sol.


  2. benchingthebar says:

    That’s quite a stash! 😀 I’ve had real trouble tracking down sugar free syrups like in your last photo…


  3. april says:

    Thanks for all the info! The only “bodybuilding” supplements I take are BCAA’s and protein powder, but I’m always curious to hear what other people take! Although I do take other supplements for my health (fish oil, magnesium, collagen, and calcium!)


    • thefitwriter says:

      April, I thought of you when I was writing this as I know you’re interested but personally don’t like some supps (the preworkout stims, particularly?) Your view on things like this is always interesting to me since you’re a nurse as well as a lifter! 🙂


      • april says:

        Well what scares me is some of the ingredients- a lot of them are vasodilators for example, which could cause some people problems! Especially if they take other medications. But, like I said, I am curious- i have a sample of one I’ve gotten in the mail and am tempted to try it, I keep backing out though! Haha.


      • thefitwriter says:

        Oh absolutely, I hear what you’re saying!


  4. Kat Millar says:

    Hey Nic,
    Great post, really great detail on the supps but in plain easy language. At the moment I take creatine and L-glutamine and of course you know I’m a raving fan of liquiflav drops!


  5. SuzyT says:

    Hi Nic, thanks for explaining all that, nice to know the science! I take protein powder, BCAAs, L-glutamine, glucosamine, omega 3’s and I use liquiflav drops. And that’s just for training! I also take *deep breath* zinc, calcium, magnesium (magnesium is AWESOME), chromium, echinacea, peppermint oil & ginseng. I have a million dosset boxes scattered everywhere – home, work, gym bag etc. Glad I’m not the only one 🙂


    • thefitwriter says:

      Hooray, Suzy T’s stash trumps mine! (maybe?) I like your list…it sounds like a song… “Sheeeee taaaaakes… *deep breath*… calcium magnesium chromium and glutamine/liquiflav and peppermint, omega 3 glucosamine…”



  6. LOL. I really hope you got to see my fridge/kitchen post last week. Wanna be roommates? hahaha.

    I also start to panic when I get down to about 2 tubs of protein powder. I have to order mine online and it takes a week to ship soo… yeah it’s a problem! lol


    • thefitwriter says:

      I’m the same with cottage cheese (!) When I “only” have one (giant) tub left in the fridge I start to get a little twitchy. Like it’s ever going to be out of stock in any of the bazillion supermarkets we have round here! 🙂

      PS Come and stay any time, we have a spare room and the gym is a 3 minute walk away 😀


  7. Hey Nic! I discovered you through Joob’s blog. I am a fitness copywriter as well and an figure athlete. I work for an all-natural performance nutrition company that primarily caters to endurance athletes.

    I will say this, though the supplement regimen is different in this sport vs. triathlon, it’s not necessary to gorge down armfuls of pills, powders, and oils each day. We all go through this when introduced to the sport. You will find what works for you and what doesn’t.

    I am a sponsored athlete through my company, so I take what they sell. Before that, I didn’t take anything because I found after a couple years of taking armfuls of stuff, I was better off without it.

    You do need a good multi and mineral supp. Omega-3s are important as well. Everything else is optional, and some beneficial while others are not.

    Take care and I will keep in touch by following your blog.


    • thefitwriter says:

      Hi there, thanks for reading! What a lot in common – freelance writing and figure competitors, and both involved in the endurance sport world in some way as well!

      I’ll bookmark your blog to read later – thanks.

      Take care, Nic


  8. Susan says:

    Uh, cannot even come close to your supplement cupboard. Very impressive! Mine just has protein powder, BCAAs, and a multivitamin. I get so overwhelmed with all the stuff out there!


  9. ahahahah supplement area! my stash is slowly decreasing. I’m trying to limit myself to one whey protein tub at a time…3 tubs right now lol. I don’t take any other supplements, just because I’m scared of all the extra chemicals added (specifically the sweeteners!). They just upset my stomach 😦


  10. […] have to get my thinking cap on! I do have some firm favourites in some categories but, in others, I chop and change depending on what samples I’ve been […]


  11. Mick says:

    Gotta get those omega 3’s in, one of my favourite supplements, I got even more pills than you do, Im starting to think its becoming obsessive LOL!


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