What do you think about protein supplements? I train kick boxing and some weight lifting roughly 2 - 3 times a week. Would you suggest taking protein supplements?

If so, what would you look for when choosing such protein supplements? I heard about Maximuscle, have you heard about it? Any supplements you would suggest?


  • What is your current diet like? What is it about the supplements that appeals to you? Nov 8 '13 at 16:22
  • My most common diet during the week is as follows: Bread with ham & cheese during morning, followed by some fruits and then pasta early afternoon. Then the last meal varies depending on what I'm doing, whether I'm training, going out etc... I could be eating meat, pizza, etc..
    – markcassar
    Nov 12 '13 at 9:27
  • Sounds like you should supplement with eggs, milk, and meat before spending moola on protein powders. Nov 12 '13 at 9:30

Before jumping into the world of supplements, it's healthy to know a few things:

  • The relative usefulness of supplements is way oversold.
  • Certain supplements have a proven track record, with lots of research to back it up like Creatine Monohydrate.
  • Other supplements have no track record, or have inflated prices.

Assuming your diet is an athlete's diet (meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables, oats, brown rice, black beans) most of the time, you may not need supplementation at all. There are exceptions, but this will help you decide what you need for yourself.

Supplements that should be in every athlete's diet

There's a short list of supplements every athlete should use, plus a couple that are recommended.

  • Multivitamin: With the demands of an active life, athletes need to make sure they get the vitamins and minerals needed. I use Optimum Nutrition Optimen, and my daughter uses Optiwomen. It's a good multivitamin without an elevated price.
  • Creatine Monohydrate: Cheap and effective, it gives you more energy to stay active longer. It might help on that last rep that's a grinder, or last a little longer during your fight training. This is probably the most researched supplement. Don't be fooled by supplement providers that try to sell you something called Creatine for a lot more money. Creatine Monohydrate is proven, and it's the same thing from every supplement provider.

After that we have the recommended category. Recommended just means it works for enough people to consider it.

  • Omega 3 or Fish Oil: This helps lower inflammation, which keeps your body working more efficiently. If your athlete's diet is rich in grass fed land animals (chicken, beef, bison, etc.) or wild caught fish, you may be getting the Omega 3 you need. If not, you'll probably need to supplement.
  • ZMA: Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B-6. Purportedly this helps you sleep better and recover more completely. Some swear by it, some haven't noticed any difference. It's not expensive so it's worth a try.

Supplements that depend on other factors

There's some supplements you may or may not need depending on your circumstances.

  • Protein: If you are getting all the protein you need from your regular diet, there's no reason to buy protein supplements. If you are losing weight, and need to increase your protein while staying under your Calorie requirements, protein can be a very good tool to use. Just remember this: the faster absorbing the protein is, the quicker it leaves your system. It's better to use a blend of protein sources that include both quick and longer absorbing sources of protein to keep you satiated. For example, Whey protein absorbs pretty quickly--even more so when it is micronized. Egg protein and Casein protein sticks with you a bit longer. I personally use a blend of the three. The brand I use right now is Syntrax Matrix 5, but Optimum Nutrition Pro Complex is also very good.
  • Vitamin D3: If you live in an area where the sun doesn't give you direct light most of the year, or you stay indoors most of the time your body may be short on Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with protein synthesis and other metabolic processes. Basically if you live between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer and have at least 30 minutes a week outdoors with skin visible--then you won't need to supplement. The rest of us do.
  • Iodine: Iodine helps keep your thyroid functioning normally. You can use iodized salts, eat seaweed (kelp is particularly high in iodine), or supplement with potassium iodide.

The big take away

The supplement industry has very little oversight in many countries, particularly in the USA. There is an independent resource you can use to sort through the hype: Examine.com. Maximuscle may indeed be a great product, or it may be very overpriced for what it delivers. I don't know about that product specifically, but I know about the basic supplementation that I do and why I do it.

There are a few unscrupulous companies that sell banned substances under new labels as the next secret sauce so they can make a quick buck. The problem is that it's hard for people to make sense of what really does help. Very often the benefits, while present, are not nearly what they are sold as. When you look up the research provided by a supplement company, it goes to an "independent review" that they paid for and are hosting the site for. Essentially it's an elaborate scheme to separate you from your hard earned cash. The examine.com folks provide a very welcome resource that you know to see just how useful something is.


Most people do not have enough protein in their diets. The amount you need is largely based on your goals, but anyone doing strength training will want to have more than the average person.

Personally I use Optimum Nutrition. It tastes good, is available globally, and is relatively inexpensive. Furthermore in a Consumer Reports study (link) it ranked as having one of the lowest levels of harmful substances in it. This is important because if you're going to be ingesting a bunch of powder over years of your life it's a decent idea to make sure there are no heavy metals and the such in it.

If you can get enough protein in your diet to not need supplements, than don't get supplements. This is a very rough number, but shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight, per day. Use a nutritional tracking service on the Internet for a couple of weeks to see where your current diet lands you.

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