Top sports supplements for athletes

The top sports supplements for athletes, discussed by fitness expert and personal trainer, Simon Diamond.

supplements on table with real food as person preps their week

by Simon Diamond |
Updated on

As an athlete, achieving peak performance is not only about training rigorously and following a tailored diet that provides sufficient macronutrients - proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Furthermore, it is equally important to ensure you are getting an abundance of micronutrients - minerals and vitamins - from your diet, too. By doing so, you’ll be optimising your body’s health and internal and external mechanisms. This is where the best supplements come in.

In pursuing a balanced and nutritious diet, supplements can enhance your athletic prowess, recovery, and overall well-being. But let us make one thing clear - supplements are supplementary and the cherry on the cake to a well-rounded diet. They should not replace real foods.

Article summary: In this article, we explore how supplements like probiotics, whey protein, fish oil, digestive enzymes, multivitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, and ashwagandha can enhance athletic performance when combined with a balanced diet.

Probiotics and prebiotics

A healthy gut is essential for maximising nutrient absorption and supporting immune function, both critical for athletes. Probiotics - the beneficial bacteria - foster gut health by maintaining a balanced gut microbiome. Improved digestion, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immunity are among their benefits, ultimately contributing to better athletic performance.

Prebiotics, conversely, act as nourishment for these beneficial bacteria, promoting their growth and activity. A balanced combination of probiotics and prebiotics can improve digestion, reduce gastrointestinal distress during exercise and better nutrient utilisation.

Whey protein

Whey protein, derived from milk, is a staple supplement for athletes. Rich in essential amino acids, it aids in muscle repair and growth, making it ideal for post-workout recovery. The rapid absorption of whey protein ensures amino acids are readily available for muscle repair and growth, helping athletes bounce back quicker and stronger after intense training sessions.

Plant-based alteratives are readily available, suitable for those on a vegan or lacto-free diet. Vegan protein powders are often made using pea protein.

Drinking whey protein, or a plant-based alternative, is an easy way to add more protein into your diet and top up on amino acids after a workout.

Fish oil (Omega 3, 6 and 9)

Fish oil, particularly Omega 3 fatty acids, offers many benefits for athletes. Omega 3 is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate exercise-induced inflammation and promote faster recovery. Additionally, it contributes to cardiovascular health by enhancing blood flow and optimising heart function.

Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids, though often found in abundance in the typical diet, also play a role in overall health. Striking the right balance between these omega-fatty acids can support cardiovascular health and can reduce oxidative stress, benefiting athletic performance.

Plant-based Omega 3, 6 and 9 are available, with the oils being derived from seeds, such as Flaxseed.

Digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes facilitate the breakdown of food into absorbable nutrients. For athletes, these enzymes can help enhance the absorption of nutrients from the diet, which is essential for energy production, muscle repair and overall recovery. Proper nutrient absorption can improve endurance, strength and overall athletic performance.

Multivitamins A - Z

Taking multivitamin supplements can prevent nutrient deficiencies even with a well-rounded diet for general health support. After all, even athletes experience nutritional gaps in their diet due to travelling, lack of access, on-the-go schedule and other variables. Multivitamins provide a safety net, ensuring that essential vitamins and minerals are available to support metabolic processes, energy production and overall health.

Many minerals, including zinc and magnesium, aid in muscle recovery and can optimse performance.

Zinc and magnesium

Zinc and magnesium are critical minerals for everyone, especially athletes.

Zinc supports immune function, protein synthesis and wound healing, while magnesium plays a role in muscle relaxation, energy production and nerve function. Ensuring adequate levels of these minerals can aid in muscle recovery, reducing the risk of injury and optimising performance.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, often called the sunshine vitamin, is crucial for bone health, immune function and hormonal balance. Athletes who train indoors or in locations with limited sunlight exposure (like the UK) may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels can support bone health, muscle function and overall performance.


Intense training can elevate stress levels in athletes. Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb, helps the body manage stress and reduce cortisol levels. By promoting a balanced stress response, ashwagandha can enhance recovery, boost endurance and support mental focus.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, while supplements can significantly enhance athletic performance, they are most effective when combined with a tailored diet that aligns with your lifestyle, body make up and fitness goal/goals. Consultation with a doctor or GP is recommended before incorporating supplements into your routine, as individual needs and objectives vary. By strategically incorporating these supplements, athletes can unlock their full potential and achieve optimal performance on and off the field.

Simon Diamond is a contributor to What’s The Best with over a decade of expertise in fitness, nutrition and wellbeing. A former bodybuilder and fitness model winner, Simon holds multiple World Records for muscular endurance and strength titles.

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