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The guide for natural training supplements

Der Ratgeber für natural Trainierende Supplements

In this four-part series of articles, I will cover everything a natural trainer should know about building muscle without using prohibited performance-enhancing substances. In the fourth and final part, I will cover the topic of supplements.

5:45 in the morning.

The iPhone is already blinking when the alarm clock starts ringing, ending the silence of the night.

John rolls to the side and presses the home button on the phone. 5 new emails, 2 calendar reminders and a bunch of irrelevant social media notifications greet him.

His mind starts to wake up, but his body feels the need for more sleep despite the rising sun. John takes a deep breath and straightens his body in bed.

He staggers carefully towards the bathroom and manages to avoid all potentially dangerous pieces of furniture. He steps onto the scales and the numbers become visible.

"110 kilos"

He steps off the scales and shakes his head.

"Strange, I've been hanging around 110 kilos for three months - despite all the new supplements I've been using." Once in the kitchen, he rummages in his supplement bag with sachets and jars while he prepares his supplements for the day.

  • 3 scoops of whey protein
  • 4 capsules of magnesium glycinate
  • 6 capsules of fish oil
  • 2 capsules of zinc picolinate
  • 1 capsule of vitamin D

He shakes his head and turns towards the door. "I'm going to start rattling if I keep taking so many pills..." he mumbles to himself as he leaves the house.

The basics first

Before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear. I am not an anti-supplement guy. On the contrary, I use supplements myself and recommend their use. But supplements are most definitely not a magic silver bullet. You're not going to break through a weight loss or performance plateau just by swallowing a few fish oil capsules and popping a line of creatine.

As I mentioned in the part of this article series that dealt with nutrition, you should get the following 11 basic concepts down before you even think about popping a pill:

  • You should have an adequate overview of your total daily calorie consumption and protein intake.
  • You should eat a wide variety of whole foods.
  • You should consume usable amounts of protein in the range of at least 20 to 35 grams per meal.
  • Get at least 7.5 to 8 hours (or more) of sleep per night.
  • You should eat lean red meat two to three times a week
  • Consume foods rich in potassium and add salt to your meals (if you eat bland foods) to ensure an adequate electrolyte balance.
  • Two to three times a week you should eat 120 to 150 grams of wild-caught oily fish.
  • You should go to bed before 11pm.
  • You should eat at least 7 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • You should get 20 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight daily.
  • You should eat 2 to 3 whole eggs a day.

Creatine, caffeine and carbohydrates ... my goodness!

Now that we've addressed points 1 through 11, we can get into some finer details. Of course, this list is by no means all-inclusive and there are certain situations where additional supplements may be necessary depending on specific medical conditions. However, this list is a good starting point for most.

1. liquid carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are supplements? You bet they are. However, we're talking about the liquid version here, not a handful of mashed potatoes. In case you're not clear on the physiological significance of this, here's a quick summary. Carbohydrates cause

  • A lower incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (1, 2)
  • Improved glycogen resynthesis (3)
  • A reduced cortisol response (4)
  • A better T:C ratio (5).

Dosage: 30-60g depending on the volume of your training session.

2. creatine

Creatine should be a basic supplement for everyone - including those who don't exercise. Scientific research has repeatedly shown the benefits of creatine supplementation when it comes to increasing performance and building muscle. Recently, however, we have also seen more studies indicating a reduction in fatigue during periods of sleep deprivation, cognitive improvements in patients with traumatic brain injury and changes in cerebral oxygenation (6, 7).

Dosage: Maximum 5 grams per day. 10 grams per day could be beneficial for people who are very physically active or have large amounts of muscle mass. A loading phase is not necessary, but could help increase creatinine levels in the brain and improve markers of sleep quality (7).

3. caffeine

Keep in mind that there are people whose performance can suffer under the influence of compounds such as caffeine that cause excessive stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. You should therefore not automatically assume that caffeine is necessary (look at basic concepts 1 to 11 before resorting to this compound to support performance).

Caffeine can be a double-edged sword - so choose wisely, as you could put yourself in a tricky position with its use and find that this performance-enhancing substance can quickly turn into a lifestyle crutch. Here are some contraindications to keep in mind:

  • Avoid all caffeine consumption after 1:00 pm
    • Some people need to limit their caffeine intake to before 11:00 am if they have a genetic alteration of the CYP1A enzyme that affects caffeine metabolism (15).
  • Be careful about regularly using high doses of caffeine before training sessions after sleeping poorly the night before - you could exacerbate neuroendocrine maladaptations.
  • If there is evidence of HPA axis dysregulation (cortisol/melatonin disrhythmia, altered cortisol response upon waking, abnormal stress response to exercise, etc.), then caffeine use should be avoided completely.

Dosage: Start with the lowest effective dose - 100mg is likely to be sufficient for non-habitual caffeine users. People who use caffeine more frequently can use a dosage of 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight.

4. magnesium

Despite the marketing hype, magnesium is not a sleep supplement, but plays a role in over 300 enzymatic functions, including sleep-related processes (8). It supports the breakdown of catecholamines and upregulates GABA production, both of which support improved sleep - and this is especially true as we age (9, 10).

And if you're not eating lots of Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, avocados, dried figs and black beans, then you're probably deficient in this important mineral (11).

When it comes to magnesium supplementation, you should stick to magnesium chelates (e.g. magnesium bisglycinate chelate, buffered magnesium chelate, etc.) and avoid magnesium salts (e.g. magnesium oxide, magnesium stearate, etc.). Most manufacturers use magnesium salts because they are cheap, but unfortunately magnesium salts have poor bioavailability due to their poor absorption.

Dosage: 400-500mg per day, making sure to include a variety of magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Some people may need to go up to 10 x body weight in mg depending on their current nutritional status and symptoms.

5. zinc

When was the last time you ate oysters? If you're like me, the answer is probably "never". Zinc not only plays an important role in immune function, but also acts as an endocrine modulator (aromatase inhibitor) and is promising when it comes to repairing the intestinal mucosa in a chronically permeable intestinal wall (12, 13).

Dosage: 30mg per day. Different types of zinc provide different amounts of elemental zinc and the dosage may vary depending on daily requirements. Sweating increases the excretion of zinc, which is why athletes may need more zinc.

6. vitamin D

20-30 minutes in the sun a day? Good - you're helping to regulate your circadian rhythm and support vitamin D production, which has heart-protective, anti-cancer and diabetes risk-reducing effects.

But if you're like most people in the Western world, you probably spend most of the day indoors - not to mention that the duration and intensity of sunlight varies greatly with the seasons.

Dosage: During the winter months, higher amounts (2,000 to 5,000 IU) will probably be necessary to keep blood levels in the optimal range (250nmol/L) (14). Supplementation may not be necessary during periods of increased sunlight (spring/summer).

7. greens powder/fruit powder

This is more of an honorable mention than a firm recommendation. However, I'm almost certain that 95% of people reading this article do not consume the recommended 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, so a high-dose greens/fruit powder will benefit almost everyone.

However, you should still do your best to eat your fruits and vegetables in their natural form whenever possible. Don't try to justify your poor eating habits by using a greens supplement.

Dosage: As much as necessary to meet the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables.

Do your homework

At the end of the day, individualization is important when it comes to performance gains, body composition changes or improving overall health. The best approach is to have your blood levels checked regularly and use targeted supplementation rather than taking a shotgun approach.

Think critically and question everything.


  1. Carbohydrate supplementation affects blood granulocyte and monocyte trafficking but not function after 2.5 h or running.
  2. Carbohydrate and the cytokine response to 2.5 h of running.
  3. Contraction-stimulated muscle glucose transport and GLUT-4 surface content are dependent on glycogen content.
  4. Nutritional and contractile regulation of human skeletal muscle protein synthesis and mTORC1 signaling
  5. The impact of an ultramarathon on hormonal and biochemical parameters in men.
  6. Effect of creatine supplementation and sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state, and plasma concentrations of catecholamines and cortisol
  7. Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation.
  8. Biochemical functions of magnesium.
  9. Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors.
  10. Oral Mg(2+) supplementation reverses age-related neuroendocrine and sleep EEG changes in humans.
  11. Magnesium deficiency: pathogenesis, prevalence, and clinical implications.
  12. Zinc and immune function
  13. Zinc carnosine, a health food supplement that stabilizes small bowel integrity and stimulates gut repair processes.
  14. Dietary Supplements for Health, Adaptation, and Recovery in Athletes.
  15. The influence of a CYP1A2 polymorphism on the ergogenic effects of caffeine.


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