Do We Really Need Sports Supplements?

Protein powders, protein bars, energy drinks, electrolytes…there are so many sports supplements out there, but are they really necessary?

Protein powders

After strength training it is important to replenish the body with adequate protein.

Protein helps rebuild and replenish muscle fibres, ensuring that adequate repair is possible. Ideally refuelling shortly after strength training will have the best benefit.

Yes, protein shakes can be convenient, however you can get terrific protein from foods like eggs, milk, yoghurt and lean meat.

Try instead: A glass of plain milk can be just as effective at providing adequate protein as an expensive protein powder.

Also read: We Rate the Biggest Health Trends of 2016

Protein bars

Choc-flavoured, crunchy topped and gooey centred… sounds exactly like a chocolate bar, yes?

Protein bars are a convenient source of protein that can be thrown into a gym bag, but have you ever looked at the ingredient list? Overly processed and far from a ‘wholefood’.

The main problem emerges when people use protein bars as a regular ‘snack’ or a hunger buster.

Try instead: A handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or yoghurt are all nourishing protein-based snacks without an extensive, overly processed ingredient list.

Energy drinks

A combination of sweetness and caffeine, energy drinks are appealing to a young palette and to those needing an instant boost.

It is important to be aware that some of these drinks have been linked to serious health issues, such as heart palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure and an increase in stress.

Try instead: A cup of tea and a piece of fruit would be a far safer option before exercising than an energy drink in most instances.


If you are training for an endurance event, competing in a day-long sports carnival, exercising at a high intensity for more than 90mins or in high temperatures, an electrolyte supplement is an excellent way to replenish and rehydrate.

For low impact activities that are less than 90 mins, electrolyte replenishment is not necessary.

Be aware that many of these drinks and/or sachets contain high levels of glucose (sugar) required for electrolyte balance – so use only as required and not as an everyday drink.


***NOTE that there are always exceptions to the rule and for individualised advice, please seek help from an Accredited Practising Dietician or Sports Dietician.

Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
Lisa is the Lead Dietitian for 12WBT. With a Masters in Nutrition & Dietietics as well as a Bachelor of Education, Lisa is keen to help all 12 Weekers understand how to achieve health for life. Lisa studied Sports Dietetics at the Australian Institute of Sport and has a keen interest in gastrointestinal health. A highly regarded communicator, Lisa is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, the ‘Dietitian in Residence’ at the University of Canberra and a lecturer at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She has also been an expert on ABC Television’s Ask the Dr Series.

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