The Truth Scoop on Pills, Powders and Supplements

On a recent course, we discussed the role of a personal trainer when identifying the “must have” latest craze in supplements, powders, pills and what ever else there is available on today’s market.  Addressing the over hyped marketing jargon of guaranteed quick fixes to guide your clients to other alternatives for a  healthier lifestyle. 

The days have gone of only professional athletes or competitors utilizing supplements to maximize performance. Your average gym goer and recreational trainer is now trying to get the edge and optmise their results, whether that being fat loss, muscle gain or to build endurance. 

With the supplement industry expecting to double by 2021 and readily available in everyday supermarkets, presenting trainers the opportunity and temptation to mirror image the serious trainers that they see knocking back brightly coloured smoothies, shakes and energy drinks in the gym with relative ease.

Supplements do work, some faster than others and some with such minor beneficial effects that you may not even notice, but it gives a great placebo effect non the less.  The reality is that for your every day client most forms of supplementation are unsuitable to either their desired goals, financial budget and should not have the perception that they will magically evolve into their dream fitness idol.  

Supplements should be used as an extra to having the right diet for the desired outcome and to be putting the hardwork in the gym or whichever physical activity they are planning to do.


As personal trainers we have a due diligence to be aware of when a supplement can be used and when it is beneficial, as well as alternatives that our clients use too in their home which has minimal cost elements attached. As mentioned earlier this market is now massive and is increasing exponentially year on year, so we need to identify what relates to what form of training, type of client and what the effects of these supplements are.

Major supplements to consider:


GLUTAMINE – Can be purchased in many formats, most commonly found in powder though. Glutamine enhances the immune system, volumises muscle cells and can speed up recovery after a workout.

Studies have found that an increased glutamine content can be beneficial for preserving muscle tissue, helping with muscular endurance and increasing muscle mass, hence why it is commonly found in combination shakes and muscle formulas.

ALTERNATIVE – As glutamine is an amino acid, which is most commonly found in food that has a high protein count such as meats, cheese, poultry and fish, thus by increasing these aspects of your clients diet would naturally increase their glutamine within their diet.


ZMA – Has become a more fashionable supplement in the past few years. It delivers key metals our bodies require for muscle growth such as Zinc and magnesium, hence the name ZMA. Taken as pills or in capsules ZMA delivers our bodies with amplified levels of vitamin B6 and helps speed up recovery from an intense workout as well as overall tissue growth.

Studies have also indicated, but not many studies have been conducted that it can increase hormone production ideal for muscle growth  in addition to improving sleep quality.

ALTERNATIVE – Again all of these components can be found and regulated with diet changes.


CREATINE – Creatine was perhaps one of the original supplements that professional athletes and bodybuilders started using to improve performance as it promotes lean body mass.

Creatine can increase vaso dilation of the veins, speed up recovery, increase muscles cell volume and allow you to train at a higher intensity for longer, hence why it is such a popular form of supplement.

ALTERNATIVE – Like Glutamine it is rife within everyday meats, with particular emphasis on red meats and fish. The creatine volumes naturally occur higher in more rare forms of meats such as boar, ostrich, rabbit and venison, so if you ever fancy being adventurous try some of these out.


PROTEIN SHAKES – Probably the most commonly found supplement on the market. These are so popular amongst dedicated trainers that they are viewed almost as integral as the workout itself.  Protein comes in several formats and there are different levels of quality of protein that you can intake.  Taken in powdered formatted and frequently mixed with water to create a shake this supplement is the biggest seller worldwide.

Protein shakes help with fast recovery and growth and are commonly taken straight after exercise as due to increased blood supply to the affected area it supplies the muscles with virtually instant food to aid recovery.

ALTERNATIVES – Protein is found in all meats, fish and plant sources a like.  It is has the highest concentration in egg whites hence why you see packs of egg whites available in supplements stores.


ARGINE – Another type of amino acid.  Argine creates nitroxic oxide which helps the blood vessels widen and relax during exercise which is great for transporting essentials to the muscles being worked and waste away. It also helps boost your immune system and aid in recovery.

Argine gives you an added psychological benefits during sessions s due to the expansion of the blood vessels that it creates it gives you a real pumped look, which can give you that bit extra motivation when hitting the weights.

ALTERNATIVES – Argine can be found like most amino acids in poultry but it can also be found in beans and seeds.


BCAAs – These amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of muscle protein, which leads to muscle growth. These take effect properly when taken at the right time before, during and post workout.

BCAAs or branched chain amino acids can lower cortisol levels, increase hormone and insulin production, making them ideal for both muscle gain and fat loss.

Increasing your personal training clients fish intake, with particular emphasis on tuna with nuts as the highest natural form of BCCAs, although they can have high fat content.


As a personal trainer you need to evaluate your client’s individually based on their gym experience, need for a supplement based on their fitness ambitions and how much emphasis they have on getting results with correlation to their financial position.  Supplements certainly have their place and often it can be just easier for a client who is very pushed for time to take a pill or grab a shake, but supplements as we have seen are based on nutritional values that are found in every day food.  During Origym’s Level 3 personal training course we cover  a module on nutrition to give our personal training graduates the knowledge of what food types are suitable for what goal your client has. To find out more information simply fill in the short form below and speak to one of our qualified personal trainers today about becoming a personal trainer.


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Written by Luke Hughes

CEO and Co-Founder

Join Luke on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Luke is the CEO and Co-Founder of OriGym. Holding a first-class degree in Sport and Exercise and an MSc in Sport and Nutrition, he is also qualified as a Level 4 Personal Trainer with various specialist credentials covering the entire spectrum of health, fitness and business. Luke has contributed to a variety of major industry publications, including Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Metro, Cosmopolitan, The Mirror, The Sun, The Standard and more.

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