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Food makes the athlete: An intro to supplement use

24 May 2017

Victoria Lewis, BSc, BPHEd

Last month I did a talk with the Sir Edmund Hillary scholars. The talk was an intro to sports nutrition, with a small focus on supplement use.

Before I jump in with the research, you need to remember that general healthy eating is the key to enhancing sport performance and recovery. Yes, some supplements are beneficial, but the most benefit will only be seen when a healthy eating plan is in place.

Whey protein

  • Whey is likely to optimise gains in lean mass and strength.
  • Whey may aid recovery if training on consecutive days (e.g. reduce muscle soreness).
  • Recommendation: after training, mix a scoop of whey with milk or water, or have a glass of milk with added skim milk powder.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)

  • Leucine, isoleucine and valine are branched-chain amino acids.
  • Leucine is the only branched-chain amino acid proven to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
  • Recommendation: if you consume whey protein and dairy products, there is likely no need to have branched-chain amino acids, as you will likely be getting sufficient amounts of leucine from these sources.


  • Caffeine likely enhances performance by reducing perceptions of fatigue and effort.
  • Recommendation: work with a nutritionist or dietitian to determine the best dose and timing protocol for you.


  • There is no strong association between magnesium and cramps during exercise. 
  • Magnesium supplements may be beneficial for those with magnesium deficiency.
  • Recommendation: get magnesium from food first – wholegrain products, fish, vegetables, lentils, beans, chickpeas.

Victoria holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, a Bachelor of Physical Education and recently completed her Masters in Dietetics. She is now working as a nutrition intern with Chiefs Rugby and a nutrition consultant at UniRec. For more information or to book, contact Victoria - or 0276262189

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