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Do you really need to take supplements?




By Angela Kerrisk from Activate Fitness

The question about taking supplements is something we often get asked during our nutrition consultations.

In an ideal world, we eat a diet rich in whole foods with a variety of different coloured fruits and veggies, quality protein and healthy fats. If this is the case, supplementation should not be necessary. However, we know in our ever-moving society, supplements can often be seen as convenient. The supplement industry is huge and continues to grow almost daily. Whether it be a multivitamin as a child, Vitamin C to fight off colds, protein powder to help hit our protein target, we’ve all likely taken some form of supplement in our life.

Protein Supplements

One of the most popular amino acid supplements is branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). We count one gram as one gram of protein. The theory behind these is that they help prevent muscle breakdown during intense exercise, however, does the research support this? Not all research has found positive benefits from a BCAA supplement. BCAAs will likely not have an impact on endurance, but a dose of six to 15 grams can help improve recovery following a hard training session. However, if you are consuming a diet high in protein and consuming a variety of different protein sources, BCAAs are not necessary.

Creatine is made naturally in the body and can be found in meat and fish, or taken in higher doses as a supplement. Hundreds of studies have been done on the effect of creatine supplements and much of these studies were done looking at anaerobic performance training. A little more than half of the studies report a positive effect on performance, while the remainder showed no real effect.

Collagen is growing in popularity and is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body making up one-third of the total body protein mass. If your diet is high in collagen-rich foods such as beef, pork, poultry, fish, fish skin and shellfish, a collagen supplement is not necessary. Given that collagen is found in animal protein, it will not be appropriate if you are vegetarian or vegan. There are, however, vegan options available that are called "collagen boosters", although these do not have substantial evidence to support their claims at this time. Most importantly, if your main goal is muscle gain then this is not the best supplement for that purpose.

Powders, bars and ready-to-drink shakes

Typically, these supplements will include whey protein, soy protein, casein or a mixture of a few different proteins. These supplement products are meant to provide a high concentration of protein to supplement usual food intake. Most of us can meet our daily protein requirements from food choices; however, protein supplements may benefit those who have a particularly high protein requirement and/or cannot consume enough protein through food. You should be cautious when relying on too many shakes or supplements in order to hit your protein targets as this can lead to increased hunger. Shakes and supplements will not keep you as satiated as whole foods.

Carbohydrate Supplements

Energy gels consist of simple sugars. Generally, these come in squeeze pouches and will contain 18-25g of carbohydrates. So, do we need them? Energy gels are a convenient way to consume carbohydrates during prolonged endurance training, but they require around 350ml of water with each 25-gram carbohydrate gel pack. This looks like approximately six big gulps of water with half a gel pack every 15 to 30 minutes, which may not be convenient for everyone, particularly those who do not want to always carry a water bottle. If one does not drink enough water, they can end up with gelatinous goo in the stomach which pulls water from the blood-stream and can increase the risk of dehydration.

Micronutrient Supplements

A vitamin worth highlighting is Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. This is of particular importance for those athletes who train mainly indoors and get little sunlight exposure. There is a growing body of research that suggests deficiencies in Vitamin D reduce muscle function, strength and performance. Likewise, studies have shown that increased levels of Vitamin D may in fact enhance performance.


We may not think of caffeine as a supplement; however, it was once on the banned list from the World Anti-Doping Agency. It was removed from this list in 2004 because it was found that caffeine did not enhance performance more than everyday caffeine use. Caffeine increases alertness and concentration by acting on the central nervous system. This reduces the perception of fatigue. Low to moderate doses of caffeine produce positive effects, but higher doses of caffeine can have negative effects including increased heart rate, impaired fine motor control and anxiety and sleeplessness. Some people are more susceptible than others, so it's important that you monitor the way in which your body responds.

Although we would love for our clients to be eating a diet rich in whole foods and hitting their macronutrient targets by consuming a variety of different whole foods, we know this is not always the case and many times for convenience, clients may turn to supplements. The supplement industry is full of a variety of different claims and can be overwhelming for many to navigate. As nutrition coaches, clients often turn to us seeking guidance on supplements, however, if you suspect deficiencies this should be a discussion with your doctor. The message here is that supplements prescribed by a doctor are helpful for people with certain medical issues.

Eating more whole foods is our best bet for improving our health. As you can see from above a well-balanced diet will give you everything your body needs to enjoy life and work out. If you need any help contact me



Coolick National School to launch online lotto

A popular primary school in the Killarney area is launching a new fundraising initiative this week to support and improve the education experience of the children it serves. The Coolick […]



A popular primary school in the Killarney area is launching a new fundraising initiative this week to support and improve the education experience of the children it serves.

The Coolick National School Lotto is now live; offering a weekly prize, a weekly jackpot and a range of valuable spot prizes at launch.

Coolick NS first opened its doors in 1870 making it one of the county’s oldest primary schools. The school and pre-school is home to over 130 children from the locality. This is an increase of 20% over the past 5 years taking enrolment to an all-time high.

Coolick NS School Lotto Chairperson and parent, Pádraig Leane says properly resourcing primary school services is crucial:

“The cost of providing education is rising and the school grants provided by the department, although valuable, only do so much. We want to overcome this challenge with our school lotto. The school has a range of immediate needs but also longer-term goals to expand our facilities, add more sports equipment, wellness programmes, student support programmes and increase extra-curricular trips,” he said.

First on the list is a new set of school jerseys, gymnastics mats, replacement of end-of-lfe iPads and further expansion of their Tír na nÓg play area for the younger pupils.
Coolick National School Principal Gearoid O’Sullivan remains focused on providing the best for the children of Coolick.

“As a school we are committed to providing the best equipment, teaching and learning resources, outdoor spaces and a school interior that helps nurture each child. This school lotto will help us with our commitment to provide the very best for the school and especially for the pupils in our care,” said the principal.

The staff and students of Coolick National School are appealing to families, friends, past pupils, members of the local community, stakeholders and supporters to get behind the weekly school lotto. It is hoped that the option of 1 line for €2.50, 2 lines for €4 or 3 lines for €5 will encourage everybody to contribute. A lotto draw will take place each week with a maximum jackpot of €2,000 to be won.

Signing up is easy; through the school’s website

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Live TV audience date with Daniel O’Donnell at INEC

People of Killarney will have the opportunity to participate in a live television audience with Daniel O’Donnell. TG4 television’s highest rating country music series of concerts is coming to the […]




People of Killarney will have the opportunity to participate in a live television audience with Daniel O’Donnell.

TG4 television’s highest rating country music series of concerts is coming to the Gleneagle INEC Arena for the first time from June 17 to 19.

Recorded before a live audience over three nights with two concerts per night, Opry le Daniel offers a different music theme each evening and a host of special guests will join the legendary presenter Daniel O’ Donnell on stage to perform all your favourite songs.

The recordings of the show will be split into two one-hour blocks, taking place throughout each evening.

Now in its 14th year, Ireland’s favourite country music artist O’ Donnell will be joined on stage by Declan Nerney, Cliona Hagan, Mike Denver, Chrissy Mac, Dana and the Donegal balladeers ‘Onóir’ to mention but a few.

Tickets from €30.20 are available from and the Gleneagle INEC Arena box office on 064 6671555.

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